Branden Grace may have cost himself the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open when his drive on No. 17 found the water guarding the left side of the green. However, as Grace was making the bogey that led the two-shot final difference with Rickie Fowler, fans were wondering if the penalty drop he took was illegal.
Grace had to take relief from the penalty area (formerly water hazard) after his drive found the drink. When Grace dropped, he did so from a squat. That concerned a lot of golf fans that Grace had taken an illegal drop. Here’s why it wasn’t against the new Rules of Golf.
Under the 2019 Rules of Golf, the drop procedure has changed. Instead of dropping from shoulder height, a golfer is now to take relief by dropping from knee height. The reasoning behind the change was to prevent golfers from needing to drop multiple times, as often happened when dropping from shoulder height because the ball would roll out of the relief area. Plenty of times, a golfer would drop twice and then wind up placing the ball where it hit the ground with the second drop. It was a system that could be gamed.
By dropping from knee height, there’s still some randomness in what happens when the ball hits the ground, but there’s no as much speed on the ball. The chances of re-dropping — and ultimately placing — the ball are lower.
(Remember, the original proposal called for dropping from an inch of the ground. But there wasn’t much randomness in that.)
However, nowhere in the new Rules of Golf does it say a player has to be in a specific stance when they drop from knee height. Rather, it says a golfer should drop from knee height as though they were in a standing position. That means a golfer can take a drop from knee height while in pretty much any stance. The key with the new drop rule is the height from which the ball is dropped.
The ball can be dropped while hunched over, while in a crouch, while on one knee. Whatever. So long as it’s from knee height. And that’s what Grace did, so he was in the clear and didn’t do anything wrong.