When you find your golf ball on a cart path, don’t just automatically pick it up. Leave it where it is until you have time to make a proper decision.
The rules allow you to drop a ball within one club length when you have interference from an immovable obstruction such as an artificially surfaced cart path. It’s important to know how to determine the nearest point of relief to make the correct drop. Sometimes it is obvious which side of the cart path you can take your drop, but other times it is not.
When it is obvious, find a stance with the club you expect to use that avoids the interference, is not nearer the hole and is not in a hazard or on a putting green. Place a tee in the ground on the spot where the ball would lie. That’s your nearest point of relief.
There are going to be times when the ball is in a position where it is not perfectly clear which side of the cart path will afford you the correct nearest point of relief. That’s when you have to follow the measuring procedure on both sides to determine which is closest.
You do not have a choice; there is only one nearest point of relief. After determining the nearest point of relief, you may use any club in your bag—yes, even a long putter—to measure a club length away. Put down another tee. This is area where your drop the ball.
There are going to be times where the free drop might put you in a worse position, such as in tall grass or where trees might block your path for the next shot. That’s when you will be glad you did not pick up your ball. You can always play from the cart path.
If taking relief is your best option, you then can lift the ball and even clean it if you wish.Then drop the ball in the required area and it is in play unless it rolls more than onr club length or closer to the hole or out of bounds or into a hazard.
Interference can occur if you have to stand on the cart path to make the next stroke or if the ball is so close to the path that it interferes with your back swing or follow through. You may not use an unnatural stance or use a longer club that you would not use just to create interference. However, there may be times when it would be reasonable to hit the ball from your other side. You can get relief and can even hit from the side you prefer.
A player may not take relief under this rule if it is clearly unreasonable for him to make a stroke at the ball since it is next to a tree in an unplayable lie. The same is true if the ball happened to be in a hazard.