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Rules Review

Rules of Golf Review: How you can drop your ball in the fairway after hitting it OB (and it's perfectly legal)

Although it has been in effect for five years now, there is an option for golfers who hit a ball out of bounds or lose their ball altogether that stills seems to cause some uneasiness out on the golf course. Often the typical response when it's mentioned is, "that must be illegal."

Truth is, if you're playing a casual round and Model Local Rule E-5 is in effect, there's nothing stopping you from taking a drop at the fairway edge if your ball is lost or OB. The R&A and USGA added this local rule in 2019 to help speed up play. Now, you don't get out of jail for free; taking this drop option comes with a two-stroke penalty. Still, it might be worth it if you don't want to trudge back to the tee and apply the traditional stroke-and-distance-penalty procedure. And if you do go back, imagine seeing your next tee shot sail OB, too. That's why this option is often pretty appealing.

With the azaleas starting to bloom in Augusta, Ga., now might be a good time for a refresher on how to take this penalty option. Before we go into detail, this is just a reminder that this option is not meant to be used in competitions involving highly skilled players. It can, however, be used in your club's member-guest or even your foursome's Saturday-morning match. If you've ever watched someone in the group in front of you attempt to go back to replay from their previous location on a busy day at the course, you can appreciate why the Rules of Golf now contains this local rule.

OK, with that out of the way, here's how to proceed under this rule. Remember, if your tee shot is lost or out of bounds and you want to drop at the fairway edge, you're now hitting four (not three). To use this local rule, you should drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have come to rest or gone out of bounds and the edge of the fairway of the hole being played. That spot cannot be nearer the hole. The USGA and R&A have designed this handy graphic to help you understand where it's OK to drop.


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