Rules Corner: How do you handle a ball that comes to rest on a bridge over a penalty area?

February 13, 2020

While most golfers are aware of how to proceed when a ball comes to rest in a penalty area, what do you do when you find your ball at rest on a bridge or walkway within a penalty area?

One thing to remember is that even though your ball may be easily playable, it’s still located within the confines of the penalty area, and needs to be treated as such. So even though the bridge is generally considered an immovable obstruction, you aren’t entitled to free relief.

The good news? You can play the ball as it lies, right off the bridge. Thanks to the governing bodies’ most recent changes to the Rules of Golf, you are also now allowed to touch or move loose impediments and touch the ground with a hand or club (such as grounding the club right behind the ball) for any reason within a penalty area. The only thing you can’t do is improve conditions for your stroke.

If you aren’t happy with your lie in the penalty area, you can also opt to take a one-stroke penalty and seek relief outside the penalty area. For a red-staked penalty area like the one in the video above, you have three options: stroke-and-distance relief, in which you would replay your shot from the original spot where your previous stroke was made; back-on-the-line relief, in which you note the reference point of where your ball entered the penalty area, go back on a line that extends straight back from the hole, and drop a ball within two clublengths of that spot; and lateral relief, in which you identify the spot where your ball last crossed the penalty area and drop a ball within two clublengths of that spot, no closer to the hole.

READ MORE:
Phil Mickelson explains how to hit it perfectly from the cart path every time
How can you distinguish a bunker from the general area?
Is it permissible to check a bunker’s depth with a tee?
Are you entitled to free relief from a sandy cart path?

Looking for more information on the Rules of Golf? Visit usga.org/rules, or, if you have a question of your own, you can submit it to Rules Guy, our resident expert, at [email protected] The answer may be featured in an upcoming issue of GOLF Magazine.

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