STOP! Don’t Touch that Ball on the Cart Path
You’ve hit a nice long shot which makes you happy – even if it was left of your target. When you reach your ball you find it is on the left side of a cart path. You know you are entitled to relief without penalty from immovable obstructions, so no problem. Right?
Rule 24 — Obstructions — tells us that we are entitled to relief from something that is man made and that is either movable or immovable. In our situation the cart path is obviously immovable and if we have interference with either the lie of our ball, our stance or the area of our intended swing, we are entitled to relief.
It is important to remember that we are getting relief from the immovable obstruction. Relief does not guarantee the ball will end up in a perfect lie, a good lie or even in a place where we can make a stroke at the ball.
KEY CONCEPT: Do not lift the ball from the cart path until you determine where you are going to be dropping it. Playing from the cart path may be your best option. If you have lifted the ball, it will cost you a one-stroke penalty to replace it on the path. Decision 18-2a/12.
Step 1: When you find your ball on a cart path, select the club you would use to make your next stroke if the cart path were not there. Many times this is based on yardage alone (5 wood), but sometimes you have a more challenging lie where you would have to play a punch shot (6 iron) or a high shot over a bush (lob wedge). Knowing what the shot dictates determines which club you use to find the nearest point of relief.
Step 2: With the club in hand (in this case the 5 wood) take your stance and address an imaginary ball on the right side and then on the left side of the path. Put a tee at the spot where the club head touches the ground on each side. This spot must not be nearer the hole than where the ball lies on the path, and if the ball were placed on that spot there would no longer be interference with the cart path for the lie of the ball, your stance or the area of your intended swing. In other words, you would have complete relief from the cart path.
KEY CONCEPT: When taking relief without penalty the Rules of Golf require that you take complete relief and the ball cannot be dropped in a hazard or on a putting green. Relief with penalty does not have these restrictions.
Step 3: Look at the distance from the ball to each tee. You may even have to measure if it is close. Which is the point nearer the ball? With a right handed golfer and the ball on the left of the cart path, as pictured, the player’s nearest point of relief would be just off the left side of the path.
Step 4: Now you can select any club in your bag and measure one club-length from the tee that indicates nearest point of relief. This area has some restrictions. It cannot be nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief; it cannot be in a bunker or water hazard. Normally this area is like a slice of pie in shape with the size determined by the angles to the hole and the restriction of not getting nearer to the hole than where the ball originally lay on the path.
Step 5a: Look over the area and the ground within two club-lengths. If you like this area, you can now lift the ball from the path, clean it, and drop it in this area. Remember the ball must first strike the course within this area, but it does not have to stay within this one club-length of ground. It may roll up to two club-lengths from where it first struck the course, but if it rolls more than that, it would have to be re-dropped. Please review the other situations under Rule 20-2c which would require that the ball be re-dropped.
Step 5b: If you determine the area where the ball is to be dropped is not going to give you a good place from which to play your next stroke as it is a steep slope or an area of rocks and shrubs, taking relief from the cart path may not be your best option. Play your ball from the path – even if using a putter is your best option.
Know the Rules. They can save you strokes and make the game more fun.