If you’re like most golfers you probably asked, “How do I take cart path relief?”
Is it the nearest point of relief? Do I get one club length? Can I drop on either side of the path?
These are all good questions and one’s we’ll address alongside other immovable obstructions today.
Cart Path Relief in Golf
The rules of golf are extensive but if you’re in the wrong place (like the cart path) you’ll want to take an immovable obstruction drop. Finding the nearest point of relief will help you get a good lie and not damage your clubs either.
- You are allowed free relief when your ball ends up on a cart path.
- For your drop, you need to find the nearest point of relief on the golf course and put a tee in the ground. You then get one club length drop from that point to take your drop.
- If you don’t like your relief options you are allowed to hit the ball from the cart path.
- The same rules apply to a sprinkler head or other artificial object as well.
Keep reading to learn the full rules about this common golf situation and how to play from the path (if needed).
Getting Relief From a Cart Path
When your ball ends up on the cart path you have few options according to USGA rules:
- Play it as it lies.
- Take free relief following the steps below.
You’re allowed relief if your ball, stance, or swing is impacted by the cart path (or other “abnormal” condition). If the cart path is near but doesn’t interfere with the swing or stance you don’t get relief.
Most golfers don’t want to damage their clubs and/or hit from the path so a free drop is the most likely option.
Here’s how to take your free drop.
Example 1: Ball on Path
Start by finding the nearest point of relief. For example, if your ball is on the left side of the cart path, you’ll likely drop on the left side. Find the nearest point of complete relief (meaning your stance or swing isn’t affected by the cart path) and put a tee in the ground.
Make sure this spot is no closer to the hole! Then, take one club length – typically your driver which is the longest club in the bag – and put another tee in the ground. This is now your drop area.
Find a spot you’d like to drop the ball within the two tees and drop it from knee height. If the ball drops and ends up between the tees the ball is now in play.
If the ball drops and rolls outside the tees, try it again. And if it rolls outside the relief area twice you get to place the ball within the relief area.
Example 2: Standing on Cart Path
If you’re standing on the cart path but the ball isn’t on the path, you still get free relief. Start by finding the point of complete relief for your stance and swing. This will usually be on the same side of the path.
For example, if your ball is to the right of the cart path, your relief area is typically on the right side of the cart path. Place a tee in the ground where you’ll have complete relief. Then take your driver and put another tee in the ground for one club length as long as it’s not closer to the hole.
This is now your relief area to drop.
How to Hit Off Cart Path
If you don’t like where the ball will end up when you get relief it’s important to remember you can always play the ball as it lies. Meaning, you can hit the golf ball off the path if you’d like. Depending on your stance, distance, and type of cart path, this is easier than you might think.
Here’s how to pull off this heroic golf shot.
Step 1: Assess the Shot
The first step is to go through the process above and make sure it’s not worth the drop. Hitting off the cart path should be more of a last resort than anything else.
Cart paths made of concrete – not pavement, are typically the easiest to hit from. Pavement tends to crack and the ball might even sit down a little. If this is the case I suggest taking a drop or worst case chipping out to not damage your wrist and/or golf club.
If you decide to play it from the path make sure to check the distance and identify what shot you want to hit. These shots are a lot easier around the greens and from inside 100 yards for most golfers.
Step 2: Test Out Your Stance
Once you check the distance you want to figure out your stance. Are you standing on the cart path or off the path? Will your feet stay in your stance during the swing or are they likely to slip?
This is the second step because if your stance isn’t good it might require a more conservative approach like a chip out back to the fairway. If your stance isn’t good or worry you might slip (and possibly get a golf injury) play it safe.
Do not risk your health for one hero shot!
Step 3: Pick the Right Club
Once you have the distance and know the stance is good it’s time to find the right club.
When it comes to hitting off the cart path concrete is best as it’s basically like hitting from a firm lie and want to clip it. The ball will tend to shoot off the path (since you won’t take a divot) and recommend clubbing down.
It’s best to play these shots almost like a fairway bunker shot. Think of hitting more of a flighted shot where you hit the ball only and not much of the ground.
You also won’t get the best angle of attack on this firm surface so plan for the ball to come out flighted. Once you have the right club, shot shape, and target, go through your pre-shot routine.
Then, pull the trigger and hope for the best. You never know, you might hit one of the greatest recovery shots of your life!
FAQs About Common Golf Rules
Are you allowed to stand on the cart path after taking relief?
No, you must take complete relief from the path. As Golf.com mentioned, “For a cart path, under Rule 16.1(b) interference includes the lie of the ball, the area of stance and swing. Even if only one of those things creates the original interference, you have to take relief from all of them to create the required complete (!) relief.”
Can you hit off the cart path?
Yes, you do not need to take relief if you don’t want relief.
For example, if you have to take a drop and it ends up in thick rough or next to an out of bounds wall, it might be better off to hit from the cart path. If you do hit off the path try to play it like a hardpan lie and try to clip the ball.
Can you hit from the putting green?
If your ball lies on the putting green of a different hole it’s sometimes considered abnormal ground condition. The rules of golf might allow you free drop at the nearest spot off the green.
After playing in hundreds of competitive events I can say a cart path rule is one of the most common in the game. Knowing how to play this simple and common rule will help speed up the pace of play and not have to call a rules official over.
If there’s ever a doubt on rules don’t forget the two ball rule. This allows you to play two balls on the hole then discuss the rule and situation afterward with officials. They’ll decide which ball will count toward your total score.
Don’t forget that you do always have the option to play from the cart path too. I’ve used this situation several times including mid-range shots with irons. But it ultimately depends on the shot, distance, lie, and stance.
Remember that cart path relief is optional and always check the area where you will drop. Your drop area might not always be the best lie/angle to the pin so check to see if it’s worth playing the shot instead.
If you take relief, remember to first find the nearest point of relief. Then you get one club length from that spot as long as it’s not closer to the hole. This is your relief area to drop.
If the path still impacts your intended swing you’ll need to re drop to the nearest point of relief.
The cart path relief rule is the same as a sprinkler head ruling in golf.