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What Is A Free Drop In Golf? – Explained!

What Is A Free Drop In Golf?
What Is A Free Drop In Golf?

Golf is known to be a technical sport full of technical terms that you may not know the meaning of. One of those golf terms commonly mentioned on golf courses and TV broadcasts is the term “Free Drop”.

If you are reading this article, you may wonder: What exactly is a “Free Drop” in golf?

In this article, we will explain to you exactly what the term “Free Drop” means in golf.

What Is A Free Drop In Golf?

In golf, a “Free Drop” is a special case of a “Drop”. It is the act of dropping a golf ball down into a playable lie after your previous stroke landed the ball into an unplayable area, and this, without penalty. In others words, you are getting a “Drop” for “free”, without penalties.

In the great game of golf, the term “Free Drop” is often mentioned on golf courses and on TV broadcasts.

In golf, the term “Free Drop” refers to the act of dropping a golf ball in order to take relief, but without taking penalties such as stroke penalties. A “Free Drop” is a special case of “Drops” in golf, without penalties being incurred for taking relief.

In other words, “Free Dropping” a golf ball allows you to change the location of your golf ball from an unplayable lie to an area with a playable lie, without receiving a penalty.

For example, if you lose your golf ball into a Ground Under Repair (G.U.R.), you will be able to take relief, and this, without a stroke penalty. Grounds Under Repair include areas that are under maintenance, piles of leaves to be removed, animal habitats, and many more.

To perform a “Free Drop” in golf, you must have the right to take relief without penalty. For example, if your golf ball comes to rest in a sprinkler head, which is considered unplayable terrain, you get to take relief as well.

This means you get to move the ball often one or two club lengths away from the sprinkler, in the relief area, thanks to the “Free Drop”. When Free Dropping your golf ball, you can use either your original golf ball, or a new golf ball.

The shape of the relief area is often a half circle, with the flat side of the half circle facing the golf hole, with its center being where your ball was.

The radius of the half circle is usually one or two club lengths of your longest club, other than the putter. This longest club used to define the size of the relief area is often the driver.

You must assure yourself that you yourself “Free Drop” the golf ball from knee height. Your caddie or your friend cannot drop the golf ball for you. However, if you are playing in a team tournament, your teammates may drop the golf ball for you.

You can “Free Drop” the golf ball from any stance or position (e.g. squatting down), as long as you drop the ball from the height of where your knees would be if you were standing.

Next, you are not allowed to throw the ball or give it some spin. You must simply let go of the golf ball for it to drop straight down. In addition, while the ball falls from your hand, it cannot touch you or pieces of your equipment.

Finally, the golf ball must drop within the confines of the “Drop zone”, with the random lie caused by the ball bouncing and stabilizing on the turf. You can stand either inside or outside the relief area (“Drop Zone”), as long as the ball’s first bounce is in the relief area.

If the “Free Drop” is performed incorrectly, the golfer with the infringement must reattempt the “Free Drop”, as many times as necessary to satisfy the requirements.

If the “Free Drop” was done incorrectly, and the golfer plays the ball anyways, the golfer receives a one stroke penalty. If you drop the ball incorrectly and play the ball located outside the relief area, you take a two stroke penalty.

If you “Free Drop” the golf ball in the relief area with correct technique, but it rolls out of the relief area, you must attempt a “Free Drop” again. On your second attempt, you must identify the exact spot where the ball drops in the relief area.

On your second attempt, if the ball exits the relief area again even though you dropped it correctly, you need to “place” the golf ball.

Placing the golf ball entails that you literally place the golf ball on the exact point that you previously identified, without dropping it. The ball must be placed on the ground, at rest, after which it will be considered to be “in play”, and you can play it normally.

Origin Of The Term “Free Drop”

The origin of the expression “Free Drop” in golf is quite simple, and is based in the English language.

The verb “to Drop” in English means “to let or make something fall vertically”.

In golf, when you are performing a golf ball “Drop”, you are literally dropping the ball down and letting it fall onto the turf with just the force of gravity.

If you take relief and drop the ball from an unplayable area, then you incur no penalty, meaning you got a “free” pass to drop the ball.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense where the term “Free Drop” shot got its name from in golf, as it literally refers to a Drop taken for free, without any negative consequences.


There you go! After reading this article, you have learned exactly what a “Free Drop” is in golf.

Do you have any other golf expressions you wish to know more about? Do you think “Free Drops” in golf should exist, or do you think “Drops” should always cause penalties, regardless of where the ball lands? Let us know in the comments down below!

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