What's the Nearest Point of Relief?
Let’s find out a little bit more about the “nearest point of relief” and how and what it’s used for in the Rules of Golf. As usual, a good starting point is the definition.
The definition states in part that “the nearest point of relief is the reference point for taking relief without penalty from interference by an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2), an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or a wrong putting green (Rule 25-3).”
That being said, the first thing to notice is that the nearest point of relief is used only in taking relief without penalty; cart paths, sprinkler heads, casual water, etc.. It is not used in relief from a water hazard, an unplayable ball or any other Rule where a penalty is involved.
The definition goes on to say that the nearest point of relief is “the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies: (i) that is not nearer the hole, and (ii) where, if the ball were so positioned, no interference by the condition from which relief is sought would exist for the stroke the player would have made from the original position if the condition were not there.”
Additionally for clarification, the definition includes a note that is a best practice that says “In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke.”
That sounds complicated so let’s break it down.
First, the nearest point of relief is going to be a point that is closest to where the ball originally lies. There may be many points near to where the ball lies, some good and some bad, but the nearest point of relief is going to be the one closest to the ball. Remember, it’s the nearest point of relief and not the “nicest point of relief”.
Secondly, the nearest point of relief can be no nearer the hole.
Finally, it is the spot on the course nearest to where the ball lies that if you had theoretically placed it, you would no longer have interference from that cart path, sprinkler head or casual water using the stroke you would have made in the first place. Interference includes lie of ball, stance, area of intended stance or swing and additionally, only when your ball lies on the putting green, intervention on your line of putt.
For example, if you were kneeling on the ground to hit a right handed punch shot with a 4-iron from under a tree and your knee was on a sprinkler head, you would mostly likely be entitled to relief. You would then find the spot on the course nearest to where the ball lie, no nearer the hole, that if the ball were so positioned you would no longer have interference from that sprinkler head for a right handed punch shot with a 4-iron while kneeling on the ground.
Generally, there is only one spot which is the nearest point of relief; however theoretically there could be more than one. Also, the nearest point of relief may be some distance away. Don’t get fooled into thinking it is only one or two club-lengths away. When taking relief from a very large puddle of casual water or a parking lot, the nearest point of relief may be 30 or more yards away.
Depending on the location of the ball (through the green, on a putting green, in a bunker or on the teeing ground) and the applicable Rule (24-2, 25-1 or 25-3), you would either drop the ball within one club-length of that spot (through the green or in a hazard as in the photo above) or place the ball at that spot (when the ball lies on the putting green).
One more thing, the nearest point of relief for a ball on a cart path can be different for a right handed or a left handed player.
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.