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The Unplayable Lie Rule, Penalty and Procedure


What is an "unplayable lie" in golf, what is the penalty, and how do you procede if you hit your golf ball into an unplayable lie? We offer several video explanations, starting with this one:

In the official rulebook, unplayable lies are covered in Rule 28. You can define an unplayable lie rather simply: It is what exists any time you find your golf ball in a position that causes you to think, "man, there is no way I can play that ball out of there - I'd rather take a penalty and drop!"

Rule 28 makes two key points crystal clear: "The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable."

To repeat: Any ball can be called unplayable, unless it is in a water hazard; and the golfer has full and final say in calling a ball unplayable. It's entirely up to you whether to call a lie unplayable and proceed under Rule 28.

The penalty for invoking the unplayable lie Rule 28 is one stroke, and you have several options for proceeding. Most commonly used is to measure two club-lengths away from the spot of the unplayable lie (not nearer the hole) and drop. But there are other options, too.

Our next video features rules expert Barry Rhodes going through the unplayable lie rule in precise detail, and using a whiteboard to demonstrate different scenarios and options:

And here is one more video that addresses a specific situation, an unplayable lie in a bunker:

See also:
Explaining 'nearest point of relief' and how to determine it



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