When and How To Take A Drop

take a drop

At the 2017 Open Championship, Jordan Spieth made one of the most memorable bogeys in recent years. The bogey came on the 13th hole on Sunday as Spieth and Kuchar battled down the stretch at Royal Birkdale. Spieth sprayed his tee ball right of the fairway where his ball found some of the brutal, long rough. After reviewing his options, Spieth and caddy decided that the best option was to take an “unplayable” and seek a drop. They eventually decided to drop on the driving range, which is in play, to have a better recovery shot. Spieth got his 3rd shot just short of the green, pitching the ball up and making the putt for an amazing bogey. He used that momentum to go five under on the last four holes and secure the victory.

Watching the coverage, it was hard to understand the rules and how Spieth used the unplayable lie to his favor.  People were wondering how he was able to do it. Here’s a look at a few of the rules of golf, explaining how and when to take a drop.

Proper Way To Take A Drop

When To Take A Drop

A golfer takes a drop after hitting their ball in an area from which they either can’t play another shot or chooses not to play their next shot. As a general rule, if the ball is in a hazard or is out of bounds, there’s a penalty stroke for taking the drop. If the ball arrives on unplayable ground through no fault of the golfer, he gets relief and without a penalty.

Rules For Taking A Drop

If you hit your ball into a water hazard with yellow stakes/lines, you can play the ball as it lies or take a drop with a one stroke penalty. If you choose not to play the ball in the hazard and want to take a drop you can:

  • drop a ball any distance behind the water hazard, keeping a straight line between the hole, the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard and the spot on which the ball is dropped.

If you hit your ball into a lateral hazard (red stakes/ lines), you can also play the ball as it lies or take a drop with a one stroke penalty. You can drop within two club-lengths of, and not nearer the hole. Here are two options when taking this approach:

  • the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, or
  • a point on the opposite side of the hazard equidistant to the hole from the point where the ball last crossed the margin.


Players are given relief when hitting into a normally playable area that’s been temporarily altered. Here’s a good example: the course is wet and a ball hit into the fairway sticks into the ground. In this case, you can lift and clean the ball, then drop it without penalty. The ball must be dropped as near to the original location as possible, but not nearer to the hole.

When taking an unplayable lie, like Spieth did on the 13th hole, you can play the ball as far back from the spot of the shot. However, they must keep the same line that they would’ve had from the original position of the ball.

How To Take A Drop

Now, let’s talk about how to properly take the drop.

  • The drop must be made by the player who hit the shot.
  • When dropping, stand up straight, extend your arm at shoulder level, then drop the ball.
  • If the ball hits anyone or anyone’s equipment, the ball must be re-dropped without penalty.
  • The ball must also be re-dropped, without penalty, under these circumstances:
    • if the ball rolls from the normal ground into a hazard,
    • the ball rolls from a hazard onto the normal ground,
    • when the ball rolls onto the green and remains there,
    • if the ball rolls out of bounds and remains there.
  • If you re-drop the ball twice and it still rolls into any of these situations, the ball can then be placed by hand.


There are plenty of rules in golf and they can be hard to remember when you’re out on the course. Following these simple steps when your ball goes astray will help you. Understanding the rule, like Spieth did, can help turn a double bogey or worse into that bogey or par that saves your round.


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