Where do you drop when a divot hole marks the previous spot?

Published 28/03/2011 07:20:00

Kevin hits an iron shot from the fairway and it goes out of bounds. He takes his stroke-and-distance penalty and drops the ball so it lands about a foot away from the divot hole he just made.

Has he proceeded correctly?

No. When a player elects, or is required, to play his next stroke from where a previous stroke was played in an area through the green, he must drop the ball as near as possible to the spot (Rule 20-5). The divot hole precisely marks the spot from which he played his previous stroke, so he must try to drop the ball so it lands in the divot hole.

Since he is dropping the ball from shoulder height, a player's aim might not be precise. If the ball lands within two or three inches of the divot hole, an official would rule it a proper drop. But if it lands farther from the divot hole, he clearly wasn't aiming for the divot hole and it's an illegal drop. If he plays the ball, he incurs a penalty for playing from the wrong place (two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play).

If the dropped ball ends up in the divot hole after being dropped properly, it must be played as it lies. There is no provision under Rule 20-2c for a re-drop from a divot hole.

Now What If?

Kevin hits an iron shot from the fairway and it goes out of bounds. Before he realizes that the ball is out of bounds, he replaces his divot.

Is he penalized for improving the area in which he is to drop a ball?

No. Normally, a player is penalized for replacing or pressing down divots in the area where he is about to drop a ball (Rule 13-2). In this case, however, when Kevin replaced the divot, he was unaware that he would have to drop in that area, so there is no penalty.


1.  I agreed with this interpretation until I read Decision 20-2c/1.5 which suggests it is OK to drop immediately behind the divot hole. That seems wrong to me. Do you have a view?

comment by Hugh Neffendorf - 03/01/2015 15:49

2.  I now think the Decision is correct. A divot will normally be nearer the hole than the original position so one should drop immediately behind.

comment by Hugh Neffendorf - 05/01/2015 21:34

3.  That was confirmed by the R&A some time ago

comment by Doug - 08/01/2015 14:09

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