October 2013 – Rules IQ
At times, we are entitled to free relief, such as when the ball lands on the cart path, in an area marked ground under repair, or by an immovable obstruction.
In these cases, we need to determine our nearest point of relief, and then drop the ball within 1 club length of that point.
The nearest point of relief is defined as “the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies
a) that is not nearer the hole, and
b) 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.”
The second part is important, as taking relief from a cart path, for example, doesn’t mean the player has a playable shot. It may mean that the nearest point of relief from the cart path puts the player squarely in some fescue or other condition that she may consider unplayable.
In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which she would have made her next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke.
That means, if you would have made your next shot with a pitching wedge, that is what you should use to find the nearest point of relief. Once that spot has been determined, mark it with a tee or some other marker, and measure one club length away not closer to the hole (any club, so use your driver for the most leeway) and mark that spot to determine the boundary behind which the ball should be dropped.
Note that if you are taking relief, you must take complete relief. In other words, if your ball or your stance is on a cart path and you take relief, you must then be completely off the cart path.