Golf ball in a divot on the fairway: why the rule will never change

It's one of the most frustrating things to happen to a golfer, but the rule will likely never be amended...

Andy Roberts's picture
Tue, 9 Mar 2021
Golf ball in a divot on the fairway: why the rule will never change

It seems evident from reading some comments on GolfMagic's Facebook page that the one Rule change that has been missed by golf's governing bodies is a free drop when our ball ends up in a divot in the fairway, writes PGA Fellow Professional Ash Weller.

Agreed - when I waft my best drive of the day and walk smugly down the fairway to find my ball sitting in a divot that could only have been made by John Daly hitting a back-foot punch with a lob wedge, I do feel a little hard done by.

Free drop, sir? Oh yes please kindly Mr Rules Official.

If it were that simple I’m sure the powers that be would have covered this in the Rules update of 2019.

However, there are two things that led them to leave things as they were.

Firstly, golf is historically a game of ‘play the ball as it lies’ and we are not always entitled to the perfect lie. In fact, it’s all part of the challenge and a test of our skills to play the ball from a variety of lies.


The rule-makers felt that a vital part of the game would be eroded if relief from divots was granted.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, not all ‘divots’ are deep and created by a short iron delivered at a 70-degree angle of attack. Some are mere scuffs from a sweetly struck 3-wood just grazing the pristine turf.

Divots are replaced and slowly heal, others are filled with seed mix and very slowly the turf regrows. But therein lies the problem – when is a divot not a divot?

The danger here is that every tiny blemish in the immaculate turf will become a scene of hot debate as to whether it was caused by a wedge wielding maniac at some point in the recent past or simply where the spring’s over-seeding hasn’t quite taken.

Simply put, there is no definitive line in the sand for when we can truly say our ball is either in a divot or not. For this reason, it would be an impractical Rule to enforce.

So, my golfing friends, next time you find your ball peeking at you from the confines of a divot you could bury a dead squirrel in, don’t curse the rule-makers, curse the ignorant swine who didn’t have the manners to replace the turf he removed with a swing more suited to the lumberjacking industry.

Stay safe all.