WHAT IS A REFERENCE POINT AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Written by Joyce McCann, Rules Chair
It is rare that a round of golf doesn’t include taking relief from something using a procedure that involves dropping a ball. In every case, whether it is penalty or free relief, the procedure requires identifying a Reference Point. A Reference Point is the point from which the Relief Area within which you must drop a ball is measured. It is important because if you have picked the wrong Reference Point, and don’t correct it before you play your dropped ball (Rule 14.5), you will very likely have hit your ball from the Wrong Place, which will result in a 2-stroke penalty (Rule 14.7).
Here are the 5 Reference Points in the Rules of Golf. They differ depending on the relief situation.
- Free relief from Abnormal course conditions (Ground under repair, Temporary water, Immovable obstructions, Animal holes), Dangerous animal conditions (Rule 16).
Reference Point = Nearest point of complete relief no nearer the hole. Relief area is one club length no nearer the hole.
- Penalty back on the line relief from Yellow or Red Penalty Areas (Rule 17) or an Unplayable ball (Rule 19).
Reference Point = A point you choose that is on a Reference Line extending from the flag through the point where your ball last crossed into the penalty area or was unplayable. Relief area is one club length on either side of the Reference Point no nearer the hole.
- Penalty lateral relief from Red Penalty Areas (Rule 17).
Reference Point = The estimated point where the original ball last crossed the edge of the red penalty area. Relief area is 2-club lengths no nearer the hole.
- Penalty lateral relief from an Unplayable ball (Rule 19).
Reference Point = The spot where the ball was unplayable. Relief area is 2-club lengths no nearer the hole.
- Free relief from a ball Embedded in the General Area (Rule 16).
Reference Point = The spot right behind the ball. Relief area is 1-club length no nearer the hole.
This is quite a bit to chew on, but your humble Rules Chair decided that, since the Season is ending, you have all Winter to digest it before next year’s season begins! If you look up the Rules indicated above, you will find illustrations showing the Reference Points for each relief situation. We have also attached a picture of all those illustrations. A suggestion is to keep this list of Reference Points in your cart or golf bag so you can easily determine which Reference Point to use in any situation.
Illustration of Reference Points: 2021-1015_Reference Points Illustration