Golfers Don’t Deserve Free Relief From Fairway Divots
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Golfers Don’t Deserve Free Relief From Fairway Divots

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Golfers Don’t Deserve Free Relief From Fairway Divots

The MyGolfSpy staff thinks I’m crazy.

That might be true, but I’m nonetheless willing to die on this hill: golfers shouldn’t get free relief from fairway divots. 

Before I make my case—and before you come at me with sharpened bunker rakes—let me make a clarification. 

I’m talking about the USGA and R&A Rules of Golf. This is purely about the technical application, whether in a competitive setting or for any golfer who wants to adhere to the rulebook. 

If you are one of the millions of golfers who enjoys the game purely for fun—and I count myself as one of them—I’m not judging you for taking your ball out of a divot. Go for it. 

If you want to treat out of bounds as a lateral penalty area; if you want to move your ball away from roots so you don’t break your wrist; if you want to take a breakfast ball off the first tee; if you want to give yourself one arbitrary mulligan on the front nine—all of that sounds great. 

Golf is whatever we want it to be. 

But when it comes to the official rules, there should be no free relief from fairway divots.

Why Should I Be Penalized For Hitting a Fairway?

While it doesn’t happen often, we’ve all been in this situation. 

You’ve laced a perfect drive right down the middle of the fairway. You get to the ball, expecting a good lie, and realize your shot has settled into a divot. 

Whether it was repaired correctly or not, someone else created this divot. The course was designed for this patch of turf to be here. By a stroke of misfortune that is no fault of your own, your ball has nestled into a tiny sliver where the turf has been displaced. 

So why should you, the golfer who hit an accurate shot, have to pay for that? 

There are instances in the rules where golfers receive free relief, including when a ball or stance is hindered by casual water, immovable obstructions and ground under repair. 

Why not add fairway divots to this category? 

Drawing the Divot Line

There are two main arguments for why this hasn’t happened. And I agree with both of them. 

The first is that this would be impossible to enforce. Where do we draw the line for what constitutes a divot? 

We can all agree that a massive beaver pelt taken out of the earth by a 9-iron creates a divot—but there is a wide range of imperfections on fairways across the world. 

What if the grass is broken and scraped but still largely intact? What if it is an old divot that has partially grown back in? What if a ball is sitting down slightly in a depression but otherwise has no issues? What about patches of dirt or hardpan? 

And even if a definition was somehow agreed upon, not everyone will have the same interpretation. Two players, or two rules officials, could easily come to separate conclusions when given the same scenario. 

An embedded ball requires interpreting whether the ball is indeed embedded, but those situations are rarely difficult to assess. If a ball breaks the surface of the ground anywhere “through the green”, free relief is granted. When a ball is embedded, it is essentially unplayable and unreasonable to hit, a situation that doesn’t exist when it comes to fairway divots. 

Ultimately, I think making a blanket rule around fairway divots would open a can of worms. 

An Inherently Unfair Game

The second argument is about the game in general: golf is inherently unfair and playing the ball as it lies is not only a condition of the game but an enjoyable challenge. 

We all have experienced hundreds, maybe thousands, of imperfect fairway lies where the ball is not sitting exactly as we would like it to be. Maybe there is more or less grass under the ball than usual. Or maybe the grass is growing against the direction of play, so the club sticks into the ground more at impact. 

We have all been faced with trying to gauge how a ball will come out of a particular lie, whether that is in the fairway or elsewhere on the course. Personally, I think that is fun. It’s a key element to the game. 

Maybe there are some people who want to play lift, clean and place at all times, ensuring a “perfect” lie in the fairway every time. I don’t want that. 

Golf is played on land—an active space that is always changing in some form—and that land is naturally imperfect. There are going to be good and bad breaks. It is also “unfair” when your ball is heading for the woods and kicks back into the fairway. 

If you would rather get exactly what you deserve from every shot, you can play on a simulator. 

The game is an exercise in judging each shot individually. Hit the ball, find the ball, solve the problem in front of you, then repeat it all again. 

One more point: finding yourself in a fairway divot isn’t exactly a common problem. How many significant fairway divots does the average golfer find themselves in over the course of a year? Maybe two or three if they are unlucky? 

Coming up with a new, hard-to-enforce rule for such a rare occurrence doesn’t seem worth it. If anything, it could slow down tournament golf as rules officials are called in to determine whether a ball is in a divot.

Responding to the Arguments in Favor of Free Relief

Here are my responses to some of the main arguments in favor of getting free relief from divots. 

1. Golfers can fix pitch/spike marks on the green so why can’t they improve the playing area for another man-made imperfection like a fairway divot? 

Everyone should repair their pitch marks (or if they scuff a green with their foot). That is an expected part of taking care of a course, just like it’s expected to replace divots or fill them with sand. 

The green is unique in that the ball is being played along the surface rather than over it. Everyone has to putt 18 times a round (probably) and there is a significant amount of foot traffic in a small area. 

If you have a five-foot putt and there is a spike mark in your line, fixing the spike mark helps maintain the course and restores that part of the green to a reasonable condition for all players. It is easy to establish a rule congruent across all courses: “A player may repair damage on the putting green without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting green as nearly as possible to its original condition.” 

Asking a field of golfers to putt through spike marks isn’t entertaining or a measure of skill. Hitting out of a divot, meanwhile, is a test of skill and creativity. 

2. Divots are man-made obstacles and you get relief from other man-made obstacles

This is technically true but also disingenuous. 

Yes, golfers take free relief from sprinkler heads, cart paths and other objects. Those items are part of the course infrastructure, areas that were not designed for a golf ball to be hit off of them or through them. Divots are in a different category—they are created naturally during play.

Also, golfers routinely get better or worse lies because of other golfers or spectators. 

If someone doesn’t properly rake a bunker—and they should rake it—you can easily find your ball in a footprint. 

It’s not fair. It shouldn’t have happened. But you hit your ball into a hazard and that is the lie you received. 

A PGA Tour player spraying a drive and getting a perfect lie in trampled rough isn’t fair. They should be playing out of a more difficult position but other people caused a change in the course. 

This list can go on for a long time. 

3. Just allow lift, clean and place (or preferred lies) throughout the fairway

This could be a good local rule at some courses that have poor conditions. It depends on the course, the season and a bunch of other factors. And, obviously, the lift, clean and place rule is often put in place for events where rain leads to too much mud accumulating on the ball. 

But as I wrote earlier, getting a perfect lie in every fairway takes some of the skill and creativity out of the game. 

Go to a driving range and drop a ball. The ball might be on grass with clean access to make impact but it’s not sitting up in an ideal spot. Fairways are similar. 

Golfers have to calculate shots from all different lies. Doing that from the fairway—where you will almost always have a good lie anyway—is part of the game. 

Closing Argument

I hate finding my ball in a fairway divot as much as the next guy but I don’t think the rule should change. 

It would be difficult to enforce and antithetical to the game from a competitive standpoint. It’s not that I want to make the game harder—it’s hard enough already. But my attraction to golf comes in part because it is unfair and challenging. 

This discussion doesn’t apply to most golfers—the vast majority will take their ball out of the divot every time that situation arises. I don’t blame them. 

But for those who play by the rules, this is part of the game. You live with it. 

I’ve stated my case. Agree or disagree? Have another solution? Let me know below in the comments. 

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Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean is a longtime golf journalist and underachieving 8 handicap who enjoys the game in all forms. If he didn't have an official career writing about golf, Sean would spend most of his free time writing about it anyway. When he isn't playing golf, you can find Sean watching his beloved Florida Panthers hockey team, traveling to a national park or listening to music on his record player. He lives in Nashville with his wife and dog (of course the dog's name is Hogan).

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm





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      NP

      3 mins ago

      This is such an idiotic opinion.

      It’s simple. Allow LCP within 6 inches of where it lies but not closer to the hole.

      You shouldn’t be punished for a good shot while in golf others get the benefit of bad shots by getting free relief from a scoreboard or TV tower.

      On mud on the ball in particular look no further than the Memorial Cantlay won. On 18 Morikawa was in the fairway but had mud on the top of his ball. Cantlay was in the rough to the right.

      Cantlay won because Morikawa’s 2nd shot took a nose dive due to the mud.

      Reply

      EBM

      5 hours ago

      Playing from divots is as outdated as original sin.

      Reply

      Ryan

      4 days ago

      The language can be narrowly defined, as golf rule language usually is. So, the idea that we can’t have a rule allowing for relief from a divot in the fairway because golfers could call anything a divot doesn’t have legs. You can design the rule to make the gray area very very small. Also, the rule doesn’t have to allow the player to place the ball. The rule could call for a drop, akin to the example of dropping a ball on the driving range.

      I don’t agree that divots are different than ball marks on the green either. You don’t play over the divot in question. You play on it. That’s more closely related to your ball rolling over a ball mark on the green than not.

      Sure, golf has this fundamental ‘play it as it lies’ rule, but it’s a rule a lot like “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c'” in that it’s a rule with so many exceptions, it’s not much of a rule at all. I don’t see why the principle of playing the ball as it lies is an argument against carving out another exception.

      Reply

      PatrickG

      5 days ago

      Perhaps let club golfers treat this under G.U.R. and take free relief. Sure it will be abused but that is up to each golfer’s conscience and it has to be agreed upon by their marker. The pros do get a lot of benefits that we don’t. Imagine how much better our scores might be with Caddies, fan housings, relief from hordings, fans finding balls etc etc…they seem to ask and more often get, awarded free drops. On the other hand, many amateurs don’t play by the rules. My experience in the US is that h/caps are VERY generous when you see gimmie putts, mulligans, lateral drops from OOB, breakfast balls….breakfast balls?!?!? lol…only in America haha. Anyway, there’s a lot of luck in golf…mostly bad.

      Reply

      Morse

      6 days ago

      If you’re playing in a tournament, then it’s up to those running the tournament to create and enforce the rules. If it’s with friends, on some of the tracks I play (at the end of the day), then we give each other some grace. Some interesting arguments, but the “golf isn’t a fair game” argument is weak, and designed to halt discussion. Every sport can make the claim that things aren’t always fair; it doesn’t mean that rules can’t be improved for the betterment of the game. So many aspects of the game of golf have evolved (equipment), why can’t the rules?

      Reply

      Patrick Floyd

      1 week ago

      Play the ball as it lies. Playing a ball out of a divot is not a hard shot. If you think it is, then learn how to play it and play the ball as it lies.

      Reply

      Danie Maré

      1 week ago

      100% Disagree.
      Fairway = Its In the word. You did your job, you hit in the right place, you should get the best lie, guaranteed.

      Here is my peeve.
      A pro can see a supporter stand. He can even hit in there on purpose (ala AustinCC). Plus stands are very much an integral part of their game, as no supporters mean no prize money. They get relieve from that.

      But an unseen divot in an area that should be fair, oh no, play it as it lies.

      Ridiculous

      Reply

      Tony

      1 week ago

      Tournament golf, play it down. Otherwise do whatever the group you are playing with wants to do.

      And I think maybe we stop raking bunkers as they are supposed to create difficultly. It is ridiculous watching pros aim for bunkers when they are in a bad spot & they know they can most likely get up and down for par.

      Reply

      Stop Whining

      3 weeks ago

      I’m all for relief from an undeserved situation in golf.

      I’ll give you free relief from the divot in the fairway if you let me give you free relief from the 50 yard kick you got off the sprinkler head on your drive. Those 50 yards were undeserved – drop it (from knee high!) within one club length of the sprinkler head.

      I’ll give you free relief from the divot in the fairway if you let me give you free relief from the bare patch you found in the knee high fescue you sliced your drive into. You don’t deserve that clean lie – you hit in the fescue you deserved at best to have a nasty lie requiring a hack out, at worst to lose your ball. I’ll relief of you of that undeserved circumstance and allow you to drop it in the lush, knee high fescue.

      The list could go on and on. You get good breaks and bad breaks. Be thankful for the good ones and don’t sweat the bad ones. No one complains about how unfair the lucky bounce is…..

      Also, 1) there is no reasonable solution other than preferred lie for every shot in the fairway which is offensive and an overreaction. 2) I play 30-50 rounds a year and I’m in a divot less than a handful of times per year. I think I was in one so far through 13 rounds this year. 3) of the handful of divots per year i deal with 1 or 2 of those are truly awful “beaver pelt” divots. 4) If you are a decent golfer it’s not that difficult of a shot – hit down on the ball and you’re going to hit a pretty decent shot – sure the trajectory won’t be ideal and you don’t have as much control as you’d like but it’s not the end of the world.

      I was playing on Monday with my buddy, 16th hole. He hit a perfect 3 wood to position A on a dog leg left par 4 – landed in a divot. He starts complaining. I said “you got this, you’re a 4 handicap. hit down on the ball, this is not that big of a deal.” He hit a great shot to the heart of the green, 20 feet from the cup.

      Reply

      Calvin Weaver

      3 weeks ago

      If you are allowed to fix a green, you should be able to fix through yhe green, including a free drop from a divot. Your fellow players decide if it’s a divot, just as they decide if it is animal damage

      Reply

      Jamie McCann

      1 month ago

      If Tiger can get the fans to move a boulder to get a more direct shot at the green, or if DeChambeau can hoist the tee box sign on his shoulder to provide a better view, with no penalty–why I should not be able to remove my ball that is resting in a divot that in the fairway. A divot that was left by an inconsiderate golfer, mind you. Is moving the ball just a few inches to the left or right or back no closer to the hole, really giving me that much of an advantage? C’mon man! Why should I–a double-digit handicapper–be penalized for hitting a drive in the middle of the fairway while Tiger and Bryson get free relief with the help of others and not by penalized. That ain’t right.

      Reply

      Eric

      1 week ago

      Try reading a little better, he doesn’t care if you as a double-digit handicapper decides you want to move your ball.

      Reply

      Ron Whitmore

      1 month ago

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Sean! In my 60 years of PLAYING golf (GOLF IS NOT A VERB as in “I golfed today”) this subject has caused more whining than any other rule in golf. Realizing I am being redundant, golf is not a fair game. Play it as it lays!

      Reply

      David Martin

      2 months ago

      Yes, golf is an inherently unfair game as it stands!! I don’t believe you should be penalized for hitting your ball in the fairway.

      Reply

      TonyG

      4 months ago

      I believe in Bifurcation. If the PGA tour played one of the courses I play on a regular basis, 70% of the fairways would be marked Ground Under Repair. Non-competitive golfers should just be allowed to play Lift Clean and Place in the Fairway. That also solves the Divot debate.

      Reply

      Bob Greenop

      4 months ago

      Totally agree

      Reply

      Rob King

      4 months ago

      While I see the argument for not getting relief, this really begins to be a statistical problem in tournament golf. The better the player, the later the tee time. The later the tee time, the more people have played before and the higher the probability of landing in a divot. This isn’t so much of an issue as long as there aren’t collection areas but in the event that there is a place the course contours persuade the ball to go, then it can really be disadvantageous.

      Reply

      GEOFFREY LISS

      3 months ago

      Agree 100%. Fairways are intended to be covered with grass and mowed to a level that is conducive to hitting the ball at or below the equator of the ball. Any incongruent surface due to excessive wear should be deemed unplayable. Divots, tire depressions, depressions made by a slammed club ( we all know that guy), are all grounds for lift and drop ( not clean) the ball. Case closed.

      Reply

      Tony

      1 week ago

      Disagree. Look at the history of golf & the equipment improvements. Play it down in tournaments

      Christopher Morgan

      4 months ago

      Some very iteresting points. I would add that the comments that I have issue with are the conditions in bunkers, yes bunkers are an hazard that’s clear and fair, but I firmly believe that a player who finds themselves in a foot print within a bunker should have the right within the rules of the game and be entitled to a free pick and place without cleaning the ball withing the bunker and no nearer the whole. This would have to be agreed by his playing partners.

      Reply

      Eric

      1 week ago

      Can I also pick my ball up in a pond and move it no closer to the hole then?

      Reply

      Wendy

      4 months ago

      I completely agree! I particularly like your comment about the number of times a season a player might find their ball in a divot hole. And…even on those few occasions, what was the result? Seriously, how bad?

      Reply

      Geoffrey liss

      3 months ago

      Three times a year? Must not play much or find the fairway. My course has over a dozen collection areas where old divots w/ w/o sand covers 50% of the fairway. Arguing for no rule change related to this issue is rubbing against the will and wishes of most golfers.

      Reply

      David

      4 months ago

      To me the fairway must be fair.
      So you should be able to mark your ball, lift it, clean it and place it on a perfect lie with a distance limit to your mark like a score card. Preferred lie anywhere on the FAIRway
      Solves divots or any abnormal lies you can find on the fairway, well most of them depending on the quality of the course, but that’s another subject altogether.

      Rough and other areas, no prefered lie.
      But make the FAIRways fair again.

      Reply

      Nocklaus

      4 months ago

      I think it is unfair. And if you say play it as it lies, that should go for everything else aswell. No moving the ball for anything, including embedded ball!!!

      Reply

      Art

      4 months ago

      I understand that there are issues even with this but in my opinion, a sand-filled divot hole should be played as ground under repair. I have no issue with hitting out of a divot hole as long as it has not been filled with sand like is done here where I play in Florida. Having a bunker shot in the middle of the fairway is, to me, unfair.

      Reply

      Wendy

      4 months ago

      Art, how do you decide when the sand filled divot hole is no longer a divot hole? How many blades of grass have to be sprouting?

      Reply

      Scott

      4 months ago

      My work league plays at a high-volume, public course so we opted to institute a local rule for fairway divots to help keep up pace and essentially formalize what most guys were doing already. We allow free relief within 12″ if you end up in a divot in your own fairway, but it has to meet two criteria:
      1) There has to have been no attempt to repair it, meaning the old turf wasnt replaced or it was not filled with the provided sand on the cart
      2) There can’t be any new grass growing in the divot

      That more or less addresses the most egredious instances where it’s a full-on crater and it has to be relatively fresh. We haven’t had any issues since we made the change even though it’s kind of the honor system. Unless you are playing in a formal, high-level tournament, take it out!

      Reply

      Derek

      4 months ago

      Every time this discussion comes up I offer the following solution:
      Allow a golfer to take 6 inches of relief in the fairway ONCE per 18 holes

      This gives you relief from that really terrible lie that happens once every few rounds. But eliminates all of the concern about “what is a divot”. Most will not use this on a borderline divot unless it is the 17th or 18th hole.

      Reply

      Ranny

      4 months ago

      I agree. I probably get more enjoyment from a well-played and strategized shot from an “unusual” lie than anything else.

      Reply

      Dave MacDougall

      4 months ago

      So you know where I stand on the issue, I really enjoy, “We are playing lift and place in a divot” day.

      Reply

      Tom Jacobs

      4 months ago

      I agree. You should learn how to play from an unusual lie like a divot. This is especially true if you like to play in competition where handicaps are used. If your handicap is a couple of strokes lower because you are always hitting from improved lies, you are only disadvantaging yourself in those competitions where the rules are strictly inforced.

      Reply

      HARKSHARK

      4 months ago

      Here’s the problem. I play normal not high end courses. They don’t have Grass containers to fill divots on course since the pandemic. Also guys walking the course can’t fix a divot often. A broken beaver tail can’t be put back in place and will often die burn out so your unable to fix that’s unfair to land in.
      Make fairways a 6 inch movement end of story there’s no way that’s a significant improvement and solves this problem.

      I can tell you this… Not a fan of this author.

      Reply

      Sean

      4 months ago

      I’m claiming a ball in a divot is an embedded ball as its below the level of the surface also I can’t reasonably ascertain if my ball pitched there or not as I was so far away. I’m not a trained forensic scientist. I would never do this but it could be argued.

      Reply

      Scott

      4 months ago

      An “embedded” ball is one that has embedded IN IT’S OWN PITCHMARK. 99.9% of the time, if your ball is in a divot, it rolled into the divot.

      Reply

      Iain

      4 months ago

      No it couldn’t.

      Reply

      Born Again Beginner

      4 months ago

      Which issues do golfers experience more often?

      Hitting into the woods only for the ball to hit a tree and bounce back onto the fairway (the ‘members/catholic bounce’)? Or the ball coming to rest in a divot?

      I wonder which the pros would prefer if they had to choose? Player gets a penalty stroke if a ball bounces out from the trees, or free relief if ball in a divot? I know which one Jaoquin Niemann would chose on the. play-off hole at Mayakoba!

      It doesn’t happen enough to be an issue.

      Shut up and play the ball!

      Reply

      John

      4 months ago

      No one yet has given me a coherent argument about how you can define a divot to be able to take relief. Golf is a game where you play the ball as it lies, taking the good luck with the bad. If there are particular areas of a course which are bad maybe there could be a local rule for clean and place automatically. However as a general rule play golf as it has always been played and learn to play out of divots similar to learning to play off side hill lies, downhill lies etc

      Reply

      jim

      4 months ago

      a ball in the fairway sitting on dirt surrounded by fairway grass from a previously struck golf shot is a divot. Roll it over with your club and play the next shot.

      Reply

      Roy irvine

      4 months ago

      No wonder the golf pros get to stupid scores in a lot of tournaments i.e 20 strokes under par, they get far too much ball relief now.
      I think that they need to go back to the time when you only touched the ball twice per hole, first putting it on the tee and then taking it from the hole ,so to speak.
      NO MORE RELIEF.

      Reply

      CryptoDog

      4 months ago

      Yeah.
      When did the “wet rules” come in to this extent?
      Part of the problem with the “modern game” when the wet weather comes in is this:
      High-launch Low Spin Fast Speed Ball, Low Spin Head, Low Spin Shaft.
      What happens when the current ball and face get wet or have any mud on them???? They spin out of control and fly wherever it wants to at extremely fast speeds very quickly very far deep into the crap.
      Never used to be such a huge problem when the soft, balata and wound balls against the persimmon, which only fly 250 carry for most at very low trajectories.
      We can’t have these modern players be embarrassed when their ball flies sideways into the hazard now, can we? No! LMAO

      Reply

      Modernise the Rules

      4 months ago

      No one wants you to define a divot.

      Offer 6 inch/150mm LCP from your own fairway as a rule, permanently.

      Any argument against this is simply masochistic.

      Reply

      bob

      4 months ago

      Spot on. You don’t have to bring in rules officials who also have agronomy degrees. Just position the ball to the quality grass common to the overall fairway and play the shot. Plenty of PGA courses have a hole or two where the balls inevitably all roll along the same contour and end up in a very concentrated area of fairway at the bottom of a hill. Doesn’t that give preference to the early tee time players who do not have to avoid 42 divots in the area later in the day?

      Reply

      Erik

      4 months ago

      There may be any number of reasons players get an advantage based on their tee time. More/fewer divots. Soggier/fluffier bunkers. More/less wind. Slower/faster greens. Lower/higher temperatures. Why just adjust for one of those?

      MarkM

      4 months ago

      These comments are exactly what I expected (except for BURN THE WITCH! 🤣) nice job of stirring the pot Sean.
      I will agree with the first part, it will be hard to define what constitutes a divot and therefore enforce a rule fairly. And that’s exactly what I’ve heard at CGA rules seminars. BUT I’d like them to try because nothing’s more demoralizing than hitting a perfect drive and winding up in a divot.
      Until they change the rule, I will continue to play from divots as I carry a hcp & play in club tourneys and subscribe to playing by the rules all the time. IF they do change it I will jump with Joy 🍾

      Reply

      M. Roeks

      4 months ago

      I didn’t read all the responses so mine mine might be a redundant one. If the fairway divots have divots have been filled in, then you should play as it lies. If the divots have not been fixed, then you should get a free drop. Why should be punished for someone else’s laziness or ignorance.

      Reply

      Brenner

      4 months ago

      Here lies another problem… let’s just make everyone lazy and then divots will never get fixed again. And dump more labor hours on our already stressed superintendent and maintenance crew.. brilliant idea ;)

      Reply

      EY

      4 months ago

      Ground under repair…full stop.

      Reply

      R.C. Allison

      4 months ago

      If you are playing golf, play golf. If you want to make up your own rules, call the game something else. Perhaps you could name it after yourself. Following the rules is what makes the game fun.

      Reply

      Jersey shore

      4 months ago

      I agree with the article. It all comes down, though, to very lazy selfish players. I play a a fairly nice public course where most of the fairways are in great shape, almost no divots, but two holes are always wet and therefore the fairways are soft. There must be a dozen unrepaired divots in a 5 ft radius. People are lazy. Every week on these holes I repair 4-5 fresh divots for every one I make. This also goes for ball marks in the greens. If everyone did this, the chance of landing in a divot would be rare. Sorry but my two cents.

      Reply

      Edj

      4 months ago

      No matter how you look at it …a divot on a fairway… especially if it is filled in with divot mix SHOULD BE considered GROUND UNDER REPAIR… move your ball left, right or backwards 6 inches

      Reply

      Gary

      4 months ago

      Agreed! A divot is the very definition of ground under repair.

      Ned

      4 months ago

      Best answer I ever heard was when I got to play TPC Sawgrass once. One of the players had a caddie. He hit a terrible shot and ask the caddie if he could hit another shot. His answer “sir you paid for this round you can do whatever you want”.

      Reply

      Peejer

      4 months ago

      Hitting a fairway is challenging enough. There are people who play golf, but are not golfers. The people who play golf don’t observe etiquette’s like sanding divots, repairing ballmarks or raking bunkers. 99% of walkers don’t carry sand for repairing divots anyhow…
      If you don’t fix your ball mark, I’m allowed to do it for you. So, if you don’t fix your divot, and the sod is long gone – why can’t I get a similar option? Like moving my ball out of a hazard created by a lazy or incompetent golfer?!?
      Pro’s (or their caddies) fix their own divots – the folks out on public, and many private courses, do not!

      Reply

      Andrew

      4 months ago

      The problem with sticking to the same rules as the pros is that most of us don’t get to play courses as nice as the ones on tour.

      It’s a lot different game to play the ball as it lies when you’re playing at Augusta vs. a local muni.

      Reply

      Mike

      4 months ago

      “Fairway” should equal “Fair Lie”. Hitting the ball in the fairway, I’ve already avoided the rough & whatever else lies beyond that. So I’m penalized because some clown took 3 practice swings & never replaced any divots? But because it’s a rule, I’ll hit out of a divot unless a local rule allows me to move it.

      Reply

      Trever

      4 months ago

      First, Sean, to be clear … you’re wrong, you know you’re wrong, and you just wrote this for the huge fight that will ensue. And that’s all good, I’m here for it!

      Golf is full of rules which then have one totally illogical exception, and most often that exception is because of the professional game. One recent example was (is) green reading books. The rules are very clear, very definitive about the use of any tool that aids in reading greens, then allowed professional golfers and caddies to effective study and create their own notes … and that morphed into published notes they all now have, despite a published green reading book violating any common-sense reading of Rule 4.3a. NOW … divots – especially divots that have then been filled with sand/seed or otherwise been replaced – clearly meet any common-sense understanding of ground conditions defined in Rule 16.1. However, the PGA Tour decided years ago they would not permit this, so now golf is stuck with that pro tour interpretation of the rule.

      Reply

      Tom S

      4 months ago

      > A PGA Tour player spraying a drive and getting a perfect lie in trampled rough isn’t fair.
      > They should be playing out of a more difficult position but other people caused a change in the course.

      It is’t “They”. In this situarion, it’s “He”. If your first sentence began “PGA Tour players spraying drives”, then “They” would be correct as you are referencing many players. But when you begin “A PGA Tour player spraying a drive”, you are referencing a single player, so the correct grammar is “He”.

      Reply

      JJ

      4 months ago

      You must be a blast at parties.

      Reply

      Nik

      4 months ago

      That’s your takeaway from the article?

      Reply

      P-Orange

      4 months ago

      This is 100% incorrect. “They” is a pronoun and can be used in the singular and reference one person, just like “them”. This is elementary school english my man.

      Reply

      XY

      4 months ago

      Whenever I end up in a bad place on the course…too often, for sure…I can’t help but think back to those ancient Scots who batted a wad of horse hair and leather along the beach and amongst the heather. “Golf isn’t fair, laddie! Play it where it lies!”
      However now that I’m older and spend thousands on clubs, rounds, etc., I will try to avoid rocks, roots and the like to avoid replacing a club…or another joint. Ball in divot sucks, but golf is the game I hate to love to hate.

      Reply

      Jimmy

      4 months ago

      “I should be entitled to a drop out of a fairway divot” is the complaint of someone who values the result over the process. If you embrace the challenge of doing everything you can to achieve the best outcome on any given shot and care a little less about your score at the end of a given round, you might start to enjoy the challenge of overcoming the unfairness that’s inherent to any outdoor sport.

      There are no guarantees, and the sport is better for it. All we can do is decide on what shot offers the best possible outcome and try to execute it. Let the results fall as they may.

      PS – I play 75+ rounds a year and am a relatively accurate driver. I might be able to recall landing in 3-4 divots last year. The impact doesn’t come close to justifying the run the topic gets on the golf internet.

      Reply

      Will

      4 months ago

      I’m not seeing any compelling arguments that a damaged patch of ground isn’t ground under repair here. That rule should apply everywhere or nowhere. Just pick one and don’t make the rules of golf look any more like tax law than they already do.

      Reply

      Jimmy

      4 months ago

      Very simply, the rules define it as “Any part of the course the Committee defines to be ground under repair (whether by marking it or otherwise).” Lobby your local courses to call them GIR. Until then, divots aren’t GIR by the rules, regardless of whether or not that few inches of turf is technically in a state of repair.

      Reply

      Jimmy

      4 months ago

      *GUR

      Jim Shaw

      4 months ago

      hmm, well here I go!! number 1, you are too middle of the road on this, if you are “play the ball as it lyes, then do it, simple as that” if you aren’t “simple as that”. You covered most of the scenarios, as a competitive golfer at a high senior level here is my take…Learn how to play the ball out of a divot, practice it and put it in your arsenal, no different than practicing your bunker shots or chip shots, get good at it…

      Reply

      Bob Shulha

      4 months ago

      A divot is ground under prepare. Especially when there is sand and seed in the divot. You can’t mark every divot with a white line but it is a gentleman’s game no? And while you are thinking about that thought how about going back to removing the flagstick when putting. In Bermuda greens if you touch the edge of the hole you usually damage the cup. At 7:30 in the morning it’s not cool. 99% remove the ball incorrectly. Let’s bring common sense back to the game.

      Reply

      Curt Weaver

      4 months ago

      …enjoyable challenge. NOT.

      Reply

      Rob

      4 months ago

      Completely disagree. Had to stop reading when the author said golf is inherently unfair, then went into good/bad breaks. The thing is those good/bad breaks are natural occurrences, like it bouncing off a tree and back into the fairway. Divots are not, they are man made.

      Reply

      Patrick Renaud

      5 months ago

      Sean, I have heard your argument regarding the definition of a divot hundreds of times. None, including your’s, make any sense. When the playing area in the fairway is marred by man made contact then a drop must be allowed. Golf for 99% of all players is for recreation. I would make the same argument for the golf ball reduction rule as well. If you are a professional golfer, then hit it out of the divot. If you are a professional golfer, then play reduced distance, spin, etc… balls. Such rules as you are making about divots is slowing down the game. You are brow-beating all golfers, especially recreational ones, when they are already penalized by not paying for their equipment. I don’t get free balls, tees, clubs, club-fitting, golf shoes, physical therapy,… There are already to distinct differences between amateurs and pros, why should there not be two distinct rules for divots!?

      Reply

      Yaaqob

      4 months ago

      Professional golfers have zero control over the ball rollback. Manufacturers said they didn’t want to deal with 2 different standards. So if you don’t like it, then complain to Titleist, TaylorMade, Kirkland, MaxFli, or whatever brand ball you will now hit on average 1 yard shorter after the rollback.

      Reply

      JBR

      5 months ago

      Each group should self-police. Players that don’t replace their own divots play from divots they land in. Players that do replace their divots get relief.
      Same applies to bunkers.

      Reply

      MarkM

      4 months ago

      Like this one!

      Reply

      Clay Nicolsen

      5 months ago

      This entire pissing contest can be resolved by attempting to answer one key question:

      “At what point is the divot grown back in enough so that you no longer get relief?”

      25% filled in with new grass? 50%? What does “filled in” mean? At least 25% of the surface of the dirt has new grass blades? How many new blades of grass? Per centimeter? Average blades of new grass over the entire surface of the divot?

      Obviously, this question has no answer, other than the opinion of the guy who’s trying to get free relief. He’s now on his knees, carefully palpating the grass around his ball, and he triumphantly stands up and declares: “Lucky me! I do believe my ball is in a not-yet-completely-grown in divot! Taking relief!”

      Allowing relief from a divot would result in simply making lift, clean, and drop permissible anywhere, any time, at the discretion of the player.

      To be clear, unless you’re in a formal competition, you can absolutely, without question, do anything you want, and the rest of us will be totally cool with it.

      Reply

      john young

      5 months ago

      As a rules official, the complexity of determining when a divot is a divot and when a divot is no longer a divot would be difficult at best to come to a conclusion for the official called in to make that decision. Seems it would be very hard to write a rule that would help the player and/or rules official make that differentiation.

      Reply

      Scott

      4 months ago

      Who cares, you’re talking about a lie in the fairway being moved mere inches one direction or the other to the exact same lie, treat it as ground under repair until there is no question of if there is a divot in place. This is beyond dumb.

      Reply

      matthew queree

      4 months ago

      exactly – the ground under repair rule totally applies…sand filled divots are obviously GUR

      Hen Bogan

      5 months ago

      New rule should read: “When taking a drop in your own fairway, place a tee in the ground at the location your ball came to rest, draw a straight line between your ball and the flag, and measure 1 club length on that line, away from flag. Place a second tee in the ground, one club length away from the first tee. You can now drop your ball from knee height anywhere between the two tees. You must play your ball from this newly dropped location. No additional relief will be provided.

      Reply

      Nik

      4 months ago

      That actually sounds quite reasonable!

      Reply

      Wow

      5 months ago

      I can’t believe I wasted 5 minutes reading this. Might be the most pointless article on the internet.

      Reply

      Ron W.

      4 months ago

      Agree. This is a subject that does not deserve the time discussing it. Quit whining and play it as it lays! I’m a senior, high handicapper, formerly a single digit hacker and have never been able to agree wńoith the ink that this subject produces. You don’t do this wonderful game any justice by incessantly complaining about it.

      Reply

      Tony deCelis

      5 months ago

      I agree, for the most part. The definition of a divot, or the condition of the divot, that you are entitled to relief from would be too hard to agree upon. I envision disagreements and slowing of play to get agreement from all competitors. I also agree that while finding your ball in a divot in your fairway is very frustrating, it doesn’t really happen that often. I can only remember a few times in the last year for me. I have seen occasions on TV golf, where a landing area is a bowl or balls funnel to a particular area, where it is much more likely to happen. Maybe in those situations, specifically for a competition, an area like that could be completely marked as GUR.

      Reply

      Rob

      5 months ago

      A divot is objectively ground under repair. The rules of golf should be modified to conform with objective reality. It really is that simple.

      Reply

      Kelly

      5 months ago

      Exactly. This isn’t any harder than that, it’s GUR.

      Reply

      The Swami

      5 months ago

      Why does this need to be so difficult. Lift and place (no clean unless model rule in effect for conditions, etc).

      You hit the targeted area (fairway) as designed by the course architect. Why are you to be punished? The fact it doesn’t happen often is not an excuse to ignore it and keep the stupid and broken rule as-is.

      Your analogy to putting on the green 18 times a round doesn’t hold argument either. You weren’t meant to putt over spike marks or ball marks there so you can fix them. You aren’t meant to hit out of a fairway divot either when you hit the fairway. Period. It is no different.

      Enforcement arguments are also a cop-out to use. It’s not that difficult. You’re not improving your lie if you’re already in the fairway where it is supposed to be! Most of us don’t get to play on multi billion dollar golf courses in immaculate condition other than a few divots that the grounds crew goes out and fixes each night. The only people this dumb stance penalize are actual regular golfers playing on regular golf courses.

      A simple use of length-of-golf-grip relief in any direction on fairway is more than sufficient to avoid a random divot for free drop, in fairways only. No enforcement issues, no problem. You want to move it about 6″ because the grass is thinner there, that’s fine too. Who cares, it’s still the fairway where you were supposed to hit it.

      Bad luck is one thing when you veer off the intended architectural course for the hole. You get what you get.

      Keeping a ball where it was supposed to go should not EVER yield a minimum one stroke penalty trying to deal with hitting it again. Not once a month, once a year, not ever. It either needs to coordinate with the existing allowed greens repair (another spot you’re SUPPOSED to hit it) or both need to be disallowed and you can putt over whatever you find on the green.

      Reply

      Mike Corcoran

      5 months ago

      Agree with comments on no relief from divots all though I see merits in argument regarding pitch marks/spike marks on the greens and allowing relief. One area not addressed are footprints or animal prints in bunkers. Pro players play out of divots all the time and while they may gripe their skill level allows them most of the time to escape unscathed. However, I never seen a pro player play out of a bunker footprint or animal print because tournament bunkers are always pristine. For these examples the Pros are playing the same rules but not the same conditions as the average golfer especially those who are playing on municipal or public courses which are veritable minefields of poorly maintained bunkers. Please allow me to move ball out of that footprint—PLEASE!

      Reply

      Andrew the Great!

      5 months ago

      Here’s a challenge to all of you who think relief should be provided for fairway divots, and that it would be easy-peasy to do so:

      Write a hypothetical Rule, including the necessary Definition(s), that would provide fair relief BUT NOT unfair relief from fairway divots.

      Go! Let’s see what ya got.

      Reply

      CryptoDog

      5 months ago

      It’s all written in the above points 1, 2, 3, so copy paste LMAO

      Reply

      Ross Haines

      5 months ago

      Allow the application of ‘winter rules’ or lift, clean replace, within 6 inches (no nearer the hole) of where the ball lies on the fairway…… it’s pretty bloody simple

      Reply

      LCP6

      4 months ago

      You’re framing it incorrectly. You don’t define spike marks or pitch marks or anything else repaired on a green.

      In a FAIRway, you are always given 6 inches LCP. All the time, as a rule. Divot or not, bare lie or not, weed or not, funny grain or not… lift, clean, place within 150 millimetres of where it came to land in the FAIRway.

      The word “divot” should never be applied to this. It’s a reason, but not part of the fix. If 6 inches won’t get you out of a divot, you’re hitting out of a divot, and you should be having a conversation that a divot is a foot wide and 6 inches long.

      Reply

      Lou

      5 months ago

      I think Lift, Clean & Place should be replaced by Lift, Clean & Drop. You drop from knee level anyway so the lie might not be perfect but it will be closer to real golf. This would work on a local level, too, for root and fairway divot issues.

      Reply

      Andrew the Great!

      5 months ago

      You’ll note that no one who says “Why Should I Be Penalized For Hitting a Fairway?” simultaneously argues “Why Shouldn’t I Be Penalized For Not Hitting a Fairway?”

      That is, if you hit your ball into the woods and it miraculously bounces out, into rough or fairway doesn’t matter, if it bounces out, then you should throw it back into the woods.

      If you shouldn’t be penalized for hitting a fairway, you shouldn’t be rewarded for hitting into the woods.

      Reply

      Matthew

      5 months ago

      Nice try but not the same thing. The ball hasn’t come to rest yet.

      Reply

      Firthy

      4 months ago

      Disagree as it is really about whether you have made a good initial shot or not. A ball sent into the woods is not generally a good shot

      Pat Driscoll

      5 months ago

      These are two stupid arguments that don’t deserve a response, however, I will bite. Pretty much every rule is subject to interpretation but if you are allowed a free drop, no closer to the hole, you are not gaining an unfair advantage. You are in pretty much the same place you would be if you did not land in the divot, which is literally, ground under repair. So golf is an inherently unfair game, why make it fairer? That sounds like the argument the NFL used to use regarding video review of plays. NFL is unfair, why make it more fair? Because we can. Gold is unfair, but we are allowed relieve from staked trees. Lets do away with that rule too, because “golf is unfair.” Is that the best you have? If so, then free relief from divot should happen today.

      Reply

      CryptoDog

      5 months ago

      ….. because life has rules? So does the game of golf. Play from the divots.
      Would the rules changes? It’s entirely possible, I suppose, because they changed the spike marks rule on the greens, but we still can’t fix punch marks on the greens, and we are supposed to be able to distinguish that from pitch marks!

      Reply

      Thedude

      5 months ago

      Ya well, Sean is an idiot. So there’s that.

      Reply

      Ben Hoagie

      5 months ago

      Easy to enforce… playing partners have to agree to relief. In regard to where to place the ball, you could say, drop must be within a clubhead of the divot.

      Reply

      Andrew the Great!

      5 months ago

      Yeah, let’s slow the game down even more.

      Reply

      C Williams

      5 months ago

      Some of the rules are just not consistent. If a mower leaks oil and kills the grass in one spot on the fairway and leaves nothing but dirt, and the ball lands in this abnormal condition on the course where there is no grass, then you get relief from ground under repair. If it lands in a divot, which also has no grass, then there is no relief. Both areas are under repair and should be treated as such. Now, if you end up in the rough… All bets are off. Play it where it lies! If you hit it in the fairway, you shouldn’t be penalized for any unintended bad course conditions.

      Reply

      Andrew the Great!

      5 months ago

      “If it lands in a divot, which also has no grass…” ~ false. Divots in various stages of repair and regrowth can have *some* grass. But as Sean observes, it would be impossible to put in the Rules a definition that provides fair relief but not unfair relief. To wit: at what point is a divot no longer a divot deserving relief? Impossible to codify in the Rules.

      Reply

      Mike Hook

      5 months ago

      I play on a Links golf course called Littlestone Warren and because it’s down by the sea we get one hell of a lot of Bird damage and also Rabbits plus the odd badger thinks it fun to make another dirt bunker on the fairway, BUT concerning fairway Divots I’ll give you a classic of what we get and I dare say other golf clubs have with divots, we like good members replace our divots meticulously, and the birds looking for food lift the divot patch and toss it over to one side and in most cases have a good dig around in the divot, plus we get Rabbits that like to tread the divots as a toilet hence droppings, now we the members look for these signs of animal workings and we take relief from the divot hole because it was created by an animal but if the divots clean we take the shot and the replace the patch over the divot that’s if you can find it, so it’s a catch two situation, although the player in front made the divot replaced it, but the bird removes it, its classed as a free lift under the rules due to animal interference, there now suck on that reply an animal is an animal wether it runs or flys FACT

      BH

      5 months ago

      BURN THE WITCH!!!

      Reply

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