Dropping Zones Revised 2015-11-29.
From the Rules of Golf Appendix I Part A 6: The Committee may establish dropping zones on which balls may or must be dropped when the Committee considers that it is not feasible or practicable to proceed exactly in conformity with Rule 24-2b or Rule 24-3 (Immovable Obstruction), Rule 25-1b or 25-1c (Abnormal Ground Conditions), Rule 25-3 (Wrong Putting Green), Rule 26-1 (Water Hazards and Lateral Water Hazards) or Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable).
Generally, such dropping zones should be provided as an additional relief option to those available 
under the Rule itself, rather than being mandatory.

 When using a dropping zone the following provisions apply regarding the dropping and re-dropping of the ball: 
(a) The player does not have to stand within the dropping zone when dropping the ball.
(b) The dropped ball must first strike a part of the course within the dropping zone.
(c) If the dropping zone is defined by a line, the line is within the dropping zone.
(d) The dropped ball does not have to come to rest within the dropping zone.
(e)The dropped ball must be re-dropped if it rolls and comes to rest in a position covered by Rule 20-2c(i-iv).
(f) The dropped ball may roll nearer the hole than the spot where it first struck a part of the course, provided it comes to rest within two club-lengths of that spot and not into any of the positions covered by (e).
(g) Subject to the provisions of (e) and (f), the dropped ball may roll and come to rest nearer the hole than: its original position or estimated position (see Rule 20-2b); the nearest point of relief or maximum available relief (Rule 24-2, 24-3, 25-1 or 25-3); or the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or lateral water hazard (Rule 26-1)."

If there are several dropping zones the player may or must use the dropping zone which is nearest to where the ball originally lay or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in Ground Under Repair; or an Obstruction; or a Water Hazard/Lateral Water Hazard, the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of a Ground Under Repair or an Obstruction, or the margin of a Hazard; even though the nearest dropping zone may be nearer the hole
The committee may prohibit the use of a dropping zone that is nearer the hole

If it is impossible to establish a dropping zone the Committee may, in exeptional circumstances, place a driving mat on level ground and allow a player who takes relief, as an extra option, to place a ball on the mat. Click to link.

For further information see the section "How to Mark a Golf Course"- Click to link 

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2015-11-29 14:22