Golf rules: Can a golfer move their golf ball out of a divot?
Golf Culture

Golf rules: Can a golfer move their golf ball out of a divot?

It's one of the most brutal moments in golf: arriving to your golf ball to find that it has wound up in the middle of an old divot. The shot you thought you hit well and wound wind up with a clean lie in the fairway now leaves you in a gross-looking spot.

For a lot of golfers, they don't know how to hit a golf ball out of a divot, and they don't have any interest in doing so. Naturally, a lot of golfers want to know if it's legal under the Rules of Golf to move their ball out of a divot and onto a cleaner lie.

Can a golfer move their golf ball out of a divot?

The simple, and perhaps frustrating, answer to the question is: no, a golfer cannot move their ball out of a divot under the Rules of Golf.

Under the Rules of Golf, there are plenty of instances in which a golfer can take free relief, but a golfer cannot take relief if their ball winds up in a divot through the green. If you hit a great tee shot, and the ball winds up in a divot in the middle of the fairway, you have to play the ball where it lies. That means hitting the next shot from the lie you're given.

Now, that might seem unfair. However, the Rules of Golf doesn't guarantee a golfer a great lie because they're in the fairway -- or, conversely, a bad lie because their ball landed in the rough. It's the rub of the green and up to the conditions on the course.

If a golfer's ball winds up in a divot on the putting surface, that divot could be repaired or perhaps could be treated as abnormal course conditions, granting relief.

Over the years, there have been many a golfer who have had this misfortune at terrible times, including Payne Stewart in the final round of the 1998 US Open. Ultimately, it cost him the championship to Lee Janzen. But those are the Rules of Golf.

Of course, there are also millions of recreational golfers that want nothing to do with hitting their ball out of a divot. And, if you're not a stickler for the Rules of Golf, your conscience probably won't be impact by moving the ball out of the divot and hitting from right next to or behind it. Besides, no one's probably looking anyhow.


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