Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

The diagram below gives you an idea of how to assess the Nearest Point of Complete Relief from an Abnormal Course Condition using relief from a Cart Path as an example.

Diagram of Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief
The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. Free relief is allowed for interference by an abnormal course condition (ACC), including an immovable obstruction, when the ball touches or lies in or on the condition (B1), or the condition interferes with the area of intended stance (B2) or swing. The nearest point of complete relief for B1 is P1, and is very close to the condition. For B2, the nearest point of complete relief is P2, and is farther from the condition as the stance has to be clear of the ACC.

But what if you are physically unable to determine the NPCR because of, for example, the trunk of a tree, a boundary fence, or a boundary wall?

The diagram below illustrates the point where a right-handed player may be unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief from an immovable obstruction and will need to estimate the point under Rule 16. Also see the Definition of Nearest Point of Complete Relief.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed.
B1 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P1 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S1 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P1 – results in player’s stance being out of bounds
B2 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P2 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S2 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P2 – unable to take stance because of Boundary Wall
B3 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P3 = Nearest point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S3 = Notional Stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief At P3 – Unable to take this stance because of tree trunk

But golf is a test of playing ability and is the same for everyone, but some can be more adept at playing shots than others, or more inventive, so long as a stroke is not unreasonable.

In the diagram above there are several options for a right-handed player:

  1. There is no rule that prevents a player from standing Out of Bounds or on a Boundary Wall to play a stroke at a ball that is in play on the course.
  2. A player may strike the ball with the face of a club if he stands with his back to the direction of play and plays the ball backwards from the side of his shoe, not standing astride the line of play, in a reverse Croquet Style stroke. There would be no Free Relief for this type of stroke because it is not a recognised as reasonable as the player could strike the wall first in making the stroke.

If a player is looking for Free Relief, then s/he may make a stroke at a ball with the back of a club, which would be regarded as a left-handed stroke.

This is an acceptable stroke and so the player would be entitled to Free Relief from the Cart Path as a Left-handed Player.

Once the reference point has been ascertained and relief has been taken and the ball dropped, the player may continue playing her/his left-handed stroke or if the lie of the ball now allows him to be able to take a stance in an area where he has complete relief from the Cart Path, so not standing on the Cart Path, then he may continue play in any direction he wishes.

See Rule 16.1a

16.1a(3)/1
Obstruction Interfering with Abnormal Stroke May Not Preclude Player From Taking Relief

In some situations, a player may have to adopt an abnormal swing, stance or direction of play in playing his or her ball to accommodate a given situation. If the abnormal stroke is not clearly unreasonable given the circumstances, the player is permitted to take free relief under Rule 16.1.

For example, in the general area, a right-handed player’s ball is so close to a boundary object on the left side of a hole that he or she must make a left-handed swing to play towards the hole. In making the left-handed swing, the player’s stance is interfered with by an immovable obstruction.

The player is allowed relief from the immovable obstruction since use of a left-handed swing is not clearly unreasonable in the circumstances.

After the relief procedure for the left-handed swing is complete, the player may then use a normal right-handed swing for the next stroke. If the obstruction interferes with the right-handed swing, the player may take relief for the right-handed swing under Rule 16.1b or play the ball as it lies.

16.1a(3)/2
Player May Not Use Clearly Unreasonable Stroke to Get Relief from Condition

A player may not use a clearly unreasonably stroke to get relief from an abnormal ground condition. If the player’s stroke is clearly unreasonable given the circumstances, relief under Rule 16.1 is not allowed, and he or she must either play the ball as it lies or take unplayable ball relief.

For example, in the general area, a right-handed player’s ball is in a bad lie. A nearby immovable obstruction would not interfere with the player’s normal right-handed stroke, but would interfere with a left-handed stroke. The player states that he or she is going to make the next stroke left-handed and believes that, since the obstruction would interfere with such a stroke, Rule 16.1b allows relief.

However, since the only reason for the player to use a left-handed stroke is to escape a bad lie by taking relief, use of the left-handed stroke is clearly unreasonable and the player is not allowed to take relief under Rule 16.1b (Rule 16.1a(3)).

The same principles would apply to the use of a clearly unreasonable stance, direction of play or the choice of a club.

Another situation is shown below when your ball lies close to a cart path. There is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green, but you cannot play towards the green from where your ball lies because of intervention by the tree.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. At point A there is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green. However, the player cannot play towards the green from point A because of intervention by the tree. Her/his only reasonable stroke is sideways to the fairway but her/his stance for such a stroke would be on the cart path.
As a result of the tree, the player is entitled to relief under Rule 16 for the sideways stroke since this is not an unnecessarily abnormal direction of play and his NPCR would be Point B. After the ball is dropped within 1 Club-length of point B (within the shaded area) and it comes to rest at point C, the player may then play in any direction s/he wishes.