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It might be one of the most infuriating aspects of professional golf.

Watching one of the world’s best hit a wayward shot into a grandstand only to see them granted generous free relief can be enough to make even the most patient fan frustrated.

Worse still, when that relief is in a spot where the player is greeted with a manicured lie and a straightforward attempt to save par, things seem rather unfair.

All this will, in extreme cases, lead to players aiming for the grandstands, safe in the knowledge that when their ball clatters into the metal and spectators, they’ll be rewarded with an easy up and down. It’s what’s known in the trade as “grandstanding”.

At The Open, though, players are rarely afforded such luxury. And this week at Royal Liverpool is no different.

The par-5 18th will no doubt play a part in deciding the 151st Champion Golfer of the Year, and it’s not just due to the internal out of bounds on the 609-yard closer. If players were hoping to take the potentially disastrous penalty area out of play by aiming for the crowd in the grandstand, they would be wise to think again.

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Around half a dozen drop zones lie in wait for any ball that either finishes in the grandstand, or for when a player’s swing is impeded by the temporary immovable obstruction.

While these are preferable to the out of bounds, they are hardly inviting.

drop zone 18th hole

Things get particularly gnarly for any balls directly over the back of the green. The drop zone, which as of Wednesday morning was unmarked, features thick rough which is going to leave players with uninviting pitch shots to say the least.

Drop zone 18 green

To the side of the green on the 18th, several other drop zones wait, all of which offer little respite. While it’s not quite as destructive as finding the internal out of bounds that runs to the right of the hole, it’s still no walk in the park.

It’s not just the finishing hole that will pose players a problem either. The new-look 17th has rightly drawn plenty of attention in the run-up to this year’s Open and it’s another that features some decidedly brutal drop zones.

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The grandstand to the right of the green on the 136-yard par-3, which really shouldn’t come into play for the world’s best, is flanked by two drop zones, one level with the back edge of the green and one level with the front edge.

Both are well below the putting surface and the one at the back of the green in particular will pose serious problems.

Drop zone 17th hole the open

Players will be forced to play from a scraggly lie over a deep bunker to a green that runs away from them. If you make four from here, never mind a par, you’re doing well.

Although players will get a free drop from any grandstands this week, aiming for them is far from a prudent strategy.

What is the Temporary Immovable Obstruction (TIO) rule?

The Temporary Immovable Obstruction rule is something with which professional golfers are all too familiar, but to amateurs it might be an unknown quantity.

The Rules of Golf state the following: “Definition of TIO: A temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) is a structure that is temporarily added on or next to the course, usually for a particular competition, and is fixed or not readily movable. Examples of TIOs are temporary tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and toilets. TIOs include any supporting guy wires connected to them, except when the Committee decides the supporting guy wires are to be treated as immovable obstructions.”

So, when can players take relief from a TIO?

There are two instances where relief from a TIO is permitted. These are when a player has physical interference from the obstruction and when the structure interferes with their line of sight.

Simply put, when a ball is close enough to a TIO that the player cannot make a swing at the ball, or when the object blocks their line of sight to the hole, relief can be granted.

What does that mean for the Open Championship?

For the final two holes at Royal Liverpool, we’re only likely to see players take relief for physical interference, not line of sight, from a grandstand.

The Open drop zone

That will only come into play for wild shots on the 17th but, at the final hole, any approach that misses the green by more than around ten yards will be impacted.

While players will get free relief, it’s not without its penalties.


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Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

Performance Editor

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