The unplayable lie rule, a woman golfer’s best friend

Men rarely find reason to use the unplayable lie rule. Here’s why and how women should.

image of golf ball in a tr

Guys disdain Rule 28, the unplayable lie rule. Often that’s because they don’t know the options, as Jordan Spieth obviously did in the final round of the British Open. Sometimes it’s because they’re strong enough to extricate themselves from deep rough, gorse, heather and other unpleasantness. Most of the time, though, their fragile egos won’t allow them to admit that a lie is, indeed, unplayable.

Women, however, do not have a male ego to protect. And so we will eagerly follow the steps to an unplayable lie if it means we do not have to crawl under that bush and attempt a shot that will likely result in the waste of two or three more.


The first step, of course, is to declare the unplayable lie. This is generally preceded by some profanity. “Oh, s—.” Or, “I can’t do a f—— thing with this.” And then, recognizing that we are not in a water hazard and so we cannot take relief, “I’m taking an unplayable lie.”

Thus, we are agreeing to take a one-shot penalty to extricate our golf ball from its misery and put it in a better place.

The second step, then, is to determine the better place. Fairway would be nice, of course, but you don’t get wishes from your fairy godmother. There are only three options once we have decided to take the penalty.


  1. Pull out your driver or whatever is the longest club in your bag, measure two club lengths from wherever the ball lies, in any direction you choose that is no closer to the hole, and put down a tee. Then drop the ball and play from there. This tends to help when your ball is up against a tree or in a bush. Note: If you are using this option in a bunker, you cannot remove your ball from the bunker until the new rules go into effect.
  2. If you are not convinced that No. 1 will improve your lie, remember, a golfer can always take stroke and distance. So go back to where you played your last shot, and try it again. This is the one to choose if your approach shot buries itself in a pot bunker.
  3. Finally there is the little-known, much-misunderstood and seldom practical option that Spieth used on the 13th hole of the British Open. Keeping the spot where the ball lies between you and the hole, you may go back as far as you like and take a drop.

At the British Open, Spieth went all the way back to the driving range to ensure that he would have a flat, smooth lie when he dropped. The average woman player would not find much use for Option 3 if it makes for a much longer shot; however, consider whether it beats Nos. 1 and 2 in some cases.

Knowing the unplayable lie rule could make the difference between a bogey and a snowbitch.

Comment With Facebook
User Review
4.8 (5 votes)