If you’ve ever had to take relief or a penalty stroke while playing golf, you’ve long known what to do. After identifying where you’ll drop, you grab your ball, put it in your hand, raise your arm to shoulder height and then drop.
However, under the new golf rules instituted in 2019, two key aspects of taking relief have changed dramatically.
The first change is one so many golfers know by now: Instead of dropping from shoulder height, golfers now take relief by dropping from knee height. The USGA’s and R&A’s goal with the rule change was to prevent golfers from having to redrop when a ball bounces out of the intended relief area. It might seem goofy at first, but if a golfer knows how to drop from knee height the right way, it’s fine.
The second change, though, is kind of mind-blowing. Under the Rules of Golf 2019 (which is the rulebook we’ll use through 2022), a golfer doesn’t have to drop the ball using their hands.
Golf Stat Pro’s Lou Stagner attended a USGA rules seminar and discovered a golfer can drop the ball however they’re able.
At USGA rules seminar they confirmed you do NOT need to use hand to drop ball as long as it is dropped from knee height. 😲
— Lou Stagner (Golf Stat Pro) (@LouStagner) January 12, 2019
That’s pretty wild. Never once did I consider dropping the ball with anything other than my hands while standing up. Now I have all kinds of options I didn’t know I had. Of course, no serious golfer would do this. They’d look goofy. It could be a fun trick to pull in a pro-am or a charity event or a scramble, but I could only see that in a rare instance.
Technically, there’s a third brain-bending change. Golfers have to take relief by dropping from knee height. However, they don’t have to be standing when they drop. They can lay down. They can be on their knees. They can be on one leg. The only thing that matters is a golfer drops the ball — with their hands, feet or otherwise — from their specific knee height. So, if your knees are 25 inches off the ground, all that matters is dropping from approximately 25 inches off the ground.
On further thought, I actually like that you don’t have to drop with your hand or stand. It might seem silly to most people, but it’s more respectful of golfers with disabilities, including those with amputations.