Not Nearer the Hole

In the Rules of Golf, we hear those words a lot! I wonder why?

In playing this great game of ours, on occasion we run into problems when we lose our ball or have it end up in a spot from where we just cannot seem to play. That’s when the Rules take effect and tell us what we can and cannot do to get ourselves out of the pickle we’re in and back to playing the game.

The Rules tell us we can either:

  • go back and play from where we last played, or
  • drop the ball or a substituted ball at a certain location or within a number of club-lengths, or
  • place a ball on an estimated or specific spot.

However, in nearly all cases, the Rules mention “not nearer the hole”.

Why not nearer the hole? Well, the answer seems obvious. While playing the game, we need to advance the ball over an obstacle course from a starting point into the hole by hitting it with a club. With very rare exceptions, you’re not going to get any of that real estate for free. That’s why the Rules will not allow you to get nearer the hole by simply dropping it or placing it there.

I noticed recently that some players have a tough time finding what is “not nearer the hole” relative to the area in which the ball must contact the course when dropping from a cart path, casual water, lateral water hazards or unplayable lies, etc.

Here’s a tip to help you find the acceptable area in which to drop or place: Before you lay down your club(s) as you normally do when measuring out one or two club-lengths from the nearest point of relief or where the ball last crossed the margin of the lateral hazard, take a club and lay it on the ground pointing directly at the flagstick in the hole. Now lay down your measuring club(s) with the end of the club touching either the nearest point of relief or the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard perpendicular across the club on the ground. When the clubs are adjusted so that the first club is pointing directly at the flagstick and the other club(s) on the ground is perpendicular to the first, the area behind the club(s) will properly indicate a point “not nearer the hole”.

Now, let me get back to that rare exception about getting real estate for free. I know I caught your interest so I might as well let you know.

If I splash my tee ball on hole #17 at TPC Sawgrass at the famous island green, I am allowed to go forward and drop a ball under penalty of one stroke in the drop zone located on a forward tee. The Rules makers do not have a problem with that since I am already paying a penalty stroke yet I still have to negotiate the hazard. Even though, I did pick up a few extra yards of real estate!

Remember, knowing and following the Rules of Golf can assist you in avoiding unnecessary penalties and help you to enjoy this great game of golf even more.

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