What if two keel lengths are not enough from an unplayable lie?

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NCG rules expert Steve Carroll is here to help you out of this sticky situation

A hook or a slice and a ball heading right into the middle of a thick bush. Or trees. Or a hedge. A scenario we know all too well.

It is a discouraging experience if the regular questions I receive are indicative.

As you all know, you have three usual options under unplayable ball relief – stroke-and-distance, back-on-the-line relief and lateral relief. I usually say because there is also a fourth way if you are in a bunker.

But in any case, we will focus on lateral relief here, as the question that sometimes arises is: ‘What if two keel lengths are not enough?’

Let’s stick to …

Unplayable lie rule: Our expert says …

If you decide to take lateral relief for an unplayable ball under Rule 19, the reference point is the place of the original ball. You measure your two club lengths out of there, and the wiser among you will have already realized that sometimes this approach will not be enough to clear the foliage.

So if you were so mindful, can you then take lateral relief more than once if necessary? Yes you can.

In fact, you can take lateral relief for an unplayable ball as many times as you need. But every time you do, it’s going to cost you a penalty.

A general interpretation of Rule 19 sheds a little more light and says that there is no guarantee that a ball will be playable after taking unplayable ball relief.

It uses the example of when a lost ball goes back to its original position or finds a bad lie somewhere else in the relief area.

The interpretation reveals that “when the lost ball comes to rest in the relief area, the player has a new situation”.

So if you can not or do not want to play it as it is now, you can take unplayable ball relief again and you can use any of the options available to you under Rule 19.

Do you have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the golf rules in early 2019, there are still some that make us scratch our heads. And since I passed the R & A’s Level 2 Rule Exam with distinction, I’m more than happy to help.

If you have sent me an email and have not yet heard from me, I will try to answer your query. I’m still flooded with requests and trying to get through them.

Just to reiterate, I continue to receive emails from players in the hopes that I can intervene in a dispute over club rules. For pretty obvious reasons, I can not do that and will refer these players either to their county or to the rules department at R&A for a final verdict.

Click here to see the full archive of explained golf rules and details on how to submit a question to our expert.

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