Taking free relief in golf is simple, but most golfers misunderstand when they can take it.
All golfers know that every stroke matters. One swing can be all the difference between winning and losing, and nothing feels worse than that one swing being from a penalty. There are however some instances where you can get assistance without taking a penalty, called free relief.
There are 3 main instances where you can take free relief: an immovable obstruction, abnormal ground conditions, or the wrong putting green.
Immoveable obstructions are the most misunderstood form of relief. Most foliage is an intentional obstacle meant to provide challenge to a golfer. If your ball ends up in front of one of a natural, immovable obstruction like a tree or a bush, you do not get relief. You must play the ball where it rests. But what about the obstacles that are not added to challenge your game? These can be manmade obstructions like a yardage marker, an electrical box, or a cart path. When your ball rests close enough to a manmade obstacle to block the path of your swing or your stance, you can take relief. Remember, artificial is key!
Abnormal ground conditions you can take relief from include temporary water, ground under repair, or animal burrow holes. Temporary water includes puddles made from rain or irrigation. Ground under repair includes areas of course maintenance or material piled for removal. When your stance or swing is affected by an abnormal ground condition such as these, you can take relief.
The wrong putting green is the most straightforward area you can take relief from. The wrong putting green means any green on the course other than the hole you are currently playing. If you are playing #4 and your ball lands on the green of #3, you can take relief. Don’t take iron shots from a green!
To take free relief, find the point no closer to the hole where your swing or stance is no longer impeded. You may drop your ball within one club length from that point, again no closer to the hole. Take your swing and continue on with your game!
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