Rules of Golf: nearest point of relief

Nearest point of relief sadly does not mean nicest point of relief! Jeremy Ellwood explains

Even the world's best often have to work out their nearest point of relief
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Common misconceptions about nearest point of relief are that you are entitled to a good lie and have some choice as to where it is. But neither is the case…

The first thing to understand about ‘nearest point of relief’ is that there are a variety of conditions and scenarios where the term comes into play - one important thing to remember is that since the 2019 rules revisions the correct terminology is nearest point of complete relief (more about that later). Some Rules, e.g. immovable obstructions, abnormal course conditions, require you to drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief with no penalty. Other Rules, e.g. unplayable ball, simply require you to drop a ball within a certain number of club-lengths under penalty.

Once you have determined your nearest point of relief you may then use any club to measure out the one or two club-length dropping area, but what about when you are determining your nearest point of relief?

You can use any club to measure the dropping area from the nearest point of relief...

You can use any club to measure the dropping area from the nearest point of relief...

In determining the ‘nearest point of complete relief’, you should use the club with which you expect to play your next stroke. The picture below perfectly illustrates how to identify where your nearest point of relief is.

... but you 'should' use the club with which you expect to play your next shot to work out nearest point of relief

... but you 'should' use the club with which you expect to next play to work out nearest point of relief

For example, say you find yourself 100 yards from the hole but standing in temporary water; you are entitled to relief without penalty. What you need to do is imagine that the temporary water is not there and select the club that you would normally hit from that position, e.g. a pitching wedge. That would be the correct club to use in order to accurately determine your nearest point of relief. You would then use that club to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing. The nearest point of relief would be the point nearest to where the ball lies that is not nearer the hole and where, if the ball was positioned there, there would no longer be any interference from the temporary water as you play your stroke.

As we have mentioned, the rules terminology now refers to the nearest point of complete relief. This means that you cannot still be standing on the the thing you are taking relief from. our nearest point of complete relief is the spot where your stance as well as your ball are no longer in contact with the path or temporary water.

Perhaps the most important thing of all to stress is that nearest point of relief does not mean nicest point of relief! There is only ever one nearest point of complete relief, and sometimes it may be less appealing than where your ball is currently lying. But you don’t get any choice as to where the nearest point of relief is, and sometimes in such circumstances you may be better off playing the ball as it lies (e.g. from a path rather than from the deep heather beside it).

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf


Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response