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Ruling of the Day - Unplayable Ball

19 July 2012 20:17 BST

Phil Mickelson Unplayable Ball

During the first round of the 141st Open Championship, Phil Mickelson had to employ one of the most frequently used Rules in the game of golf. Playing the 8th hole, Mickelson found the deep bunker on the left of the fairway with his tee shot. His ball came to rest near the edge of the bunker, leaving him with a difficult shot over the steep bunker face.

Due to the angle of the shot, the ball failed to clear the long grass at the top of the bunker. After a short ball search to locate the ball, it was found buried deep in the rough. Mickelson decided to proceed under the unplayable ball Rule – Rule 28.

Under this Rule, the player has three options for relief, each incurring a penalty of one stroke. The player can choose to proceed under the stroke and distance option by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original was last played from (Rule 28a). In Mickelson’s case, this would have involved him dropping the ball back in the bunker and attempting the same shot again.

Alternatively, Mickelson could have dropped a ball within two club-lengths of where the ball lay but no nearer the hole (Rule 28c). For Mickelson, this option would have involved dropping the ball into further long grass, potentially leaving him with a similar difficult lie in the rough.

Instead, Mickelson decided to proceed under Rule 28b. This option permits the player to drop a ball behind the point where it lay, keeping that point between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far back the ball may be dropped. This decision afforded Mickelson the best outcome and allowed him to drop the ball behind the bunker and onto the fairway under penalty of one stroke.

Mickelson was not alone in utilising this Rule. In total, Rule 28 was used 9 times in Round 1 of the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

There is now an app covering over 1,200 Decisions on the Rules of Golf. Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. It can be downloaded here.

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