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A golf ball on a fairway on a golf couseThere are generally two different reasons to drop a golf ball on the golf course - free drops and penalty drops.

Free drops
A free drop is a voluntary drop that takes place when something on the golf course interferes with your stance or golf swing - usually something that is not normally part of the golf course such as animal scrapings, man-made obstructions or posts such as marker posts or young tree posts.

Free drops provide good opportunities to gain a small advantage for your next shot. If you choose to drop the golf ball it is possible to use the one or two club lengths of dropping area to gain a better position, line for your next shot or lie for your golf ball. Make sure to take your time to consider all of the options available and do not be frightened to take advantage of the free drop if the situation occurs.

Penalty drops
Usually this type of drop is mandatory through the golf ball being hit out of bounds, into the water or during a lost ball situation. However, we will consider a situation where you are potentially in an unplayable lie. This could be a situation when the ball is up against a tree trunk or is in the thick stuff.

You do not have to drop a golf ball for an unplayable lie and you should avoid doing so if possible. In this situation you have an important decision to make - can I play the shot? Will I be able to get the ball out of trouble? The golden rule is that you must take the drop if it will cost you more shots on the hole. Do not try to be a hero and instead follow the saying take your medicine and make sure that you get out of trouble rather than play two shots from the same position. If you can advance the ball forwards or even sideways onto the fairway then take the shot but do not try to take too much on. At least you will have a good swing and angle to attack the hole for the next shot. Taking the drop will cost you a shot and free you from trouble but you will essentially be in the same position and so you need to choose your angles wisely.

The key with making a decision is to assess what the following shot will be like if you take the drop or not - which option gives you the best advantage?

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Sometimes, dropping a golf ball, even if you can hit it, is more beneficial. Weigh up the risk of trying to hit the ball and possibly leaving it where it is, against taking a drop where you could get some room or a better angle and get the ball back in play.

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Brave but stupid. Dont be frightened of taking a penalty drop to get yourself out of trouble. Remember taking one extra shot on a hole will not affect your game as much as hacking around in the thick stuff trying to get the ball back in play.

Sorry Try Again! - See Explanation Below

This is incorrect and breaking the rules. You need to return back to where you played the last shot and play again at the cost of a two shot penalty. Either that or cheat and carry on.