The Most Broken Rule in Golf

Barry Rhodes explains what he considers one of the most misunderstood – and most broken – rules in golf: the Nearest Point of Relief.


25 Responses to The Most Broken Rule in Golf

  1. John Martens March 28, 2018 at 7:11 am #

    Just a question: Are you required to take a stance outside the GUR if you take relief? If not, then a right hander could take his relief to the right in example number one by simply dropping at the closest point and taking a stance within the GUR.

    • Barry Rhodes March 29, 2018 at 6:46 am #

      The Definition of Nearest Point of Relief requires that when a player takes relief from GUR they must take complete relief, which means that when they make their stroke there is no interference from the GUR to their lie, stance or area of intended swing. So, if any part of their feet is in GUR when they make the stroke, they incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play.

  2. Delmar Yennie March 28, 2018 at 8:32 am #


    • Murray-forbes Arnold April 3, 2018 at 3:57 am #

      I agree that the rules on recreational golfers are harsh. However. If your playing a round and it’s a round that’s applicable to recording your game for your handicap, then the rules must apply, no matter.
      But, if it not, and your simply out with your friends having a fun day, then all should agree prior to starting, your own rules. . This then should not matter to anyone apart from the group playing. If all in agreement then crack on and enjoy and to tell with the rules. Just have a laugh and enjoy playing badly.

    • lenny May 25, 2018 at 1:49 pm #

      I guess you can use that analogy with any sport you play. By the way, you’re suppose to record and submit all rounds of golf which you play that are applicable. If you don’t like playing by the rules, then my advise is to just stay home with the wife.

    • Riceinwa September 7, 2018 at 2:54 pm #

      Hey, play anyway you want…if the guys that you play with are OK with it, Barry will leave you alone…just don’t come around bragging about 2 under for the round, if you take a mulligan every hole, use a Texas wedge (your foot) to get out sand traps, fail to count your “gim’mees” as a stroke, etc. I agree it should be fun…but it also should be as true to the game as it can be.

  3. Eric March 28, 2018 at 4:19 pm #

    Barry, using your same scenario but let’s say the pin is just to the left of the gur, the nearest point of relief I, I think would be a drop to the right because to the left would be closer to the hole, correct?

    • Barry Rhodes March 29, 2018 at 6:46 am #

      In the circumstance that you describe, the player would have to determine (maybe measure) whether the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole, was on the far side of the GUR side, or on the putting green side, i.e. south-west of where the ball is at rest.

  4. Barry Rhodes March 29, 2018 at 5:11 am #


    Your suggestion would require three sets of Rules; one for professional events, a second for amateur Club/Society competitions and a third for ‘casual’ golfers who are not in competition against other players and who are playing for fun. The whole point of having a unified set of Rules for wherever the game is played at whatever level of ability, is that those playing know that they can measure themselves against any other person playing the game. If you are not playing strictly to the Rules of Golf you are playing some other game and that is fine, but sooner or later you will find that some Rules do have to be agreed on between those that you are playing with.


    • Alex September 5, 2018 at 1:36 am #

      Every other sport has different rules and/or equipment for professional althletes versus amateurs. Baseball – pro’s aren’t allowed to use aluminum bats like everyone else.

      Football – one foot down for college and below versus two feet in for pro’s.

      Basketball – zone defense not allowed in NBA , closer 3 point line for college and below.

      These are just a few examples of how other sports have made the game “easier” for non professionals. Why does golf think after playing for 2 years and wanting to compete in a local tournament (mainly for financial support of the course) I need to abide by the same rules as the pros competing in the Masters?

      Just doesn’t make sense to me

  5. Tony Tether March 29, 2018 at 6:29 am #

    I thought that a Golfer could decide which way he was going to hit the ball (right or left hand) when fnding relief and then change his mind AFTER he found relief?

    If true, in the example given, the golfer could have gone to the right side of the GUR.

    • Barry Rhodes March 29, 2018 at 7:25 am #

      No you have that completely wrong, as do many golfers. There is an exception to Rule 25-1, which is relevant to taking relief from GUR, an abnormal ground condition, which sates;

      “A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an abnormal ground condition makes the stroke clearly impracticable or (b) interference by an abnormal ground condition would occur only through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.”

      So, if a right-handed player, carried a left-handed club and regularly used it, then they might be able to claim the relief that you suggest. However, this would be highly unusual and in the vast majority of cases the player would have to take relief according to their natural stance.

  6. Brian March 29, 2018 at 2:01 pm #

    So in Eric’s query above but with the ball positioned just inside the right line of the GUR and the pin in a straight line to the right of he ball position would the nearest point of relief be to the right but at an angle going south east.

  7. Steven Spoon March 29, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

    If your ball was toward the back of the GUR, could you go back to get the nearest point of relief, instead of going left or right.

    • Barry Rhodes April 3, 2018 at 7:51 am #

      Yes, as above, this was my mistake. The nearest point of relief in the diagram is immediately south of the marker.

      • Lenny Lima May 25, 2018 at 1:53 pm #

        Not really. If he took relief at the back of the GUR and his ball was equal distance away, his right foot would still be in the GUR.

  8. Barry Rhodes March 30, 2018 at 7:53 am #


    Yes, that is correct.


    • Gregg McKinney April 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm #

      Why would, for the left-handed example, the nearest point of relief not be on the back side of the GUR if all dimensions were to scale? It appears to be closer and though it may be a little farther from the hole, it is no nearer.

      • Barry Rhodes April 3, 2018 at 7:51 am #

        You are correct, I should have extended the GUR to the bottom of the whiteboard!. For the left-handed player in the second example the NPR is actually directly south of where the marker depicting the ball is placed. For a right-handed player it is less obvious. Mea Culpa.

  9. Billy Bob June 29, 2018 at 12:24 am #

    This is why handicaps in certain countries are let’s say a little optimistic. The rules aren’t adhered to and people, even club golfers, abuse or are ignorant of them every single round. The average US club golfer being case in point. Some of the swings and handicaps just don’t correlate. You see US club golfers with single figure handicaps on the TV in some pro-am events. Clearly they are nowhere near single figure markers and this is part of the evidence against the sometimes misunderstood, sometimes blatantly flagrant disrespect for the rules of golf. Saying “We ain’t no pro golfers playing for big prizes therefore why should we y’all stick to the ‘strick’ rules of golf” is akin to saying “We ain’t no NASCAR drivers so why should we use our mirrors when driving on the road”. Sorry, no more mulligans and breakfast balls for you Americans. Stick to the rules as they are and take your medicine for good and bad shots.

  10. Tom July 1, 2018 at 9:59 am #

    If GUR is in the rough and the nearest point of relief ends up in the fairway…….is that allowable? I’ve been told I cannot take relief if my ball ends up being in an improved area of the hole…..e,g., fairway versus remaining in the rough.

    • Alan July 15, 2018 at 2:22 am #


      Just to clarify , If the ball lies on the right side of the GUR on your diagram , is the nearest point of relief still the left side as I’m right handed ?

    • Jim September 5, 2018 at 8:06 pm #

      There is no such thing as rough and fairway in the rules of golf.

  11. Milton Davis September 4, 2018 at 5:06 am #

    Is a right handed golfer allowed to declare that he wants to play the next shot as a lefty , take relief where a lefty would and then play the shot right handed .

  12. Mark October 8, 2018 at 8:39 am #

    Barry, this is great clarification of an often misunderstood condition. I do have a question though. What if there is a tree on the NPoR? Not in front of, I understand that, but literally a 3 foot in diameter tree growing where the correct spot is? I’m not entitled to relief from the tree, but I also can’t take a stance since there’s a tree there? I understand I get a clublength, but where to measure from?

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