My Take on the Ball Drop Proposal

First, I must applaud the USGA and R&A for their initiative to make some changes.

However, I hope that in general the proposed changes to the rules are truly intended to “simplify” the rules rather than “modernize” them – which may only be a figure of speech. My concern stems from the fact that the Rules of Golf have stood the test of time – approximately 300 years or more — and we need to recalibrate every now and again by referring to the original set of Rules for guidance, to make sure we do not stray too far from the purpose and principles of  the code.

It is WE who have, over time, complicated the Rules in a good faith effort to be more specific and all-inclusive but inadvertently, the Rules have gradually migrated away from the basic principle, that they should be simple, unambiguous and the intent plainly conveyed so they are clearly understood by those who play the game, allowing common sense to dictate how they are interpreted. It is this which will define how effective the rules are and how well they will voluntarily be accepted and applied.

With the above in mind, my comments about the proposed new ball dropping procedure are:

  • It introduces ambiguity into the process; how it is applied will challenge the intent of the golfer and potentially introduce conflict between competitors and officials on interpretation.

  • The randomness of the eventual lie is significantly reduced – from the shoulder height drop — but placing the ball is not significantly different than dropping it from ½ an inch which is permissible.

  • The downside is greater than the upside compared to just leaving the rule as is, OR let’s bite the bullet and permit placing the ball when taking relief.

My rating, of the proposed ball drop procedure is a FOUR out of ten but it may go to a SIX if it is simplified to just place the ball when taking relief as the effect on the overall outcome — of placing vs dropping from ½ or 1 -inch — on the final score is not quantifiable.

As per my suggestion that we need to recalibrate now and again by referring to the original set of rules for guidance, let me cite Rule 5 of the 1744 Rules of Golf –

5. If your Ball comes among watter, or any wattery filth, you are at liberty to take out your Ball & bringing it behind the hazard and Teeing it, you may play it with any Club and allow your Adversary a Stroke for so getting out your Ball.

This is pretty clear and simple isn’t it?


15 thoughts on “My Take on the Ball Drop Proposal

  1. Sooo, those sadistic Scots actually allowed one to tee it up when getting relief from a watter problem. I still want my grooves back. I’m getting old and I need all the help I can get. I don’t have the hand strength at 74 that I had at 54. The ruling bodies need to consider that, or get old quickly ro know how it feels.

  2. As an official, I didn’t care for the new “drop” idea at first. For free relief the new area in which you can drop is quite small. Dropping from 1/2 to 1 inch should keep the ball within that area most of the time. Placing the ball would allow a player to possibly tee it on a tuft of grass in a possibly otherwise poor area. Even a short drop should result in some randomness to the lie. I am now in favor of this dropping technique.

  3. Calling it a drop from an inch or a few millimeters is not a drop! If with a rule change ‘placing’ is allowed then so be it, but it sounds like ‘lift, clean, and cheat’ to me. If we still want to maintain the ‘drop’ procedure, how about from waist height – that would be a simple procedure for all golfers to accomplish and it should reduce the amount of bounce and run off from many side hill lies.

  4. The older rule about facing the hole and dropping over the player’s shoulder made sense. By not being able to see the landing ground, the player was not able to influence the result of his drop. The drop is not intended to give the player any advantage as the proposed rule does, IMHO.

  5. The original rule that Frank quoted doesn’t mention dropping or placing. It It actually uses the word “TEEING”, with one stroke given for fairness. It seems obvious to me that the original rule makers knew a penalty should apply for recovery from the lie, but also that they wanted the player to have a good lie to have a decent opportunity to continue the round (and perhaps enjoy it?). Just another example of how we have allowed the golfer/lawyers to continue to argue minutia and suck the fun out of this great game

      • I’m in favor of returning to the original rule, modernizing the language, and allowing the PLACEMENT of the ball. In one action, we can stifle the TV ‘officials’ and remove all doubts about the action. Restoring the original intent is a great way to begin chipping away at the bureaucratic nonsense now present in the Rules of Golf.

  6. If one of the drivers of the rules revision initiative is common sense, then placing the ball seems to be more logical than the inanity of what is proposed. Since we seem to have come a long way from taking a blind drop over your shoulder, to dropping horizontally at an extended arm’s length, to now just millimeters above the ground, let’s just place the damn thing and be done with it.

    Wandering a bit off the topic of taking a drop, since rules simplification is another objective being sought, why not address the penalty stroke morass? I’ve not seen that this is even under consideration.

    I defy anyone, off the top of their head, to be able to recite when a one-stroke penalty is incurred versus two strokes. Why not just one stroke in all cases? Or, if one stroke is not considered penal enough, then two in all cases. Either one is more simple, consistent and easy to remember than what now exists. Heck, we even have a four stroke penalty now (the Lexi Thompson mess).

  7. I think that placing the ball makes the most sense and gives the player the opportunity to put the ball into a better lie which might make it possible to recover the shot lost from the ball going into the water hazard. As long as everyone uses the same procedure, there should be no unfair advantage for any one player.

  8. I always thought the shoulder-height drop was a little screwy in that it often (arbitrarily) would provide little relief on occasion despite the penalty stroke assessed. Placing the ball, however, is a bridge too far for the USGA/R&A, and for me, too. (I still bridle at the ‘lift, clean, and cheat’ practice of the PGA Tour–what happened to play the course as you find it?) It isn’t much, but the 1/2″-1″ ‘drop’ still provides a gesture of fairness.

  9. If they are determined to change, I vote for placing the ball and removing all ambiguity. I do see, however, that a very short player has an advantage over a very tall player when dropping from shoulder height onto long grass, a bunker or a sloped surface.

  10. Changing the drop to place would help speed up play. Not much different from dropping from mere millimeters.

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