In taking free-relief for a ball embedded in a fairway, should the ball be dropped or placed?

It is good to hear that Golf Clubs are running Rules Presentations to inform members of the new Rules of Golf and help them through the transition period from the current R&A and USGA Rules.

I have been aware, however, of some misconceptions and would like to clear them up if I can.

The first is concerning Balls Embedded in the General Area:

In taking free-relief for a ball embedded in a fairway, should the ball be dropped or placed?

The ball has come to rest in the General Area, so free relief is allowable under  Rule 16.3a, and the procedure to follow is set out in Rule 16.3b of the Rules of Golf.

The ball is dropped within a defined relief area, and the pitch-mark must not be repaired until after the shot is played, otherwise the action is improving the lie and the General Penalty of 2 strokes is incurred.

Because the ball is being dropped the position of the ball does not have to be marked, although it is always recommended to do so, to indicate a point of reference, and the ball may be cleaned.

Diagram Illustrating Fre Relief for a ball Embedded in the General Area
Diagram Illustrating Free Relief for a ball Embedded in the General Area

The ball must be dropped:

  1. From knee-height,
  2. Remain within a defined relief area of
  3. 1 club-length of a point directly behind the ball, and not just as close as possible to where the ball lies, either behind or to the side, as in the current Rules. See the diagram above.
  4. The relief area must not be nearer to the hole than the reference point and must be in the General Area.

However, if a Local Rule for Preferred Lies (Winter Rules), is in operation, after dropping the ball, and it has come to rest within the relief area, it may be marked, lifted again, cleaned and placed within 6 inches or a scorecard width of the spot where it came to rest. (Remember to remove the ball-marker before playing your next stroke, otherwise you incur a 1-stroke penalty, Rule 14.1a).

The explanation above relates only to a ball embedded in the General Area of a course.

This means that it does not apply to a ball embedded in a penalty area or a bunker.

The situation in these areas have relief rules that apply specifically to them.

Similarly, if a ball becomes embedded on the putting green being played to      (which is not considered part of the General Area), then a different procedure for free-relief is allowable under Rule 16.3a:

  1. Mark the spot where the ball has come to rest
  2. Lift and clean the ball
  3. Repair the damage caused by the ball’s impact
  4. Replace the ball ON ITS ORIGINAL SPOT, Rule 13.1c(2).

The relevant rules in full are:

Rule 16.3a

Embedded Ball

When Relief Is Allowed:

  • (1) Ball Must Be Embedded in General Area. Relief is allowed under Rule 16.3b only when a player’s ball is embedded in the general area.
  • There is no relief under this Rule if the ball is embedded anywhere except in the general area.
  • But if the ball is embedded on the putting green, the player may mark the spot of the ball and lift and clean the ball, repair the damage caused by the ball’s impact, and replace the ball on its original spot (see Rule 13.1c(2)).
  • Exceptions – When Relief Not Allowed for Ball Embedded in General Area: Relief under Rule 16.3b is not allowed:
  • When the ball is embedded in sand in a part of the general area that is not cut to fairway height or less, or
  • When interference by anything other than the ball being embedded makes the stroke clearly unreasonable (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush).
  • (2) Determining Whether Ball Is Embedded. A player’s ball is embedded only if:
  • It is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke, and
  • Part of the ball is below the level of the ground.
  • If the player cannot tell for sure whether the ball is in its own pitch-mark or a pitch-mark made by another ball, the player may treat the ball as embedded if it is reasonable to conclude from the available information that the ball is in its own pitch-mark.
  • A ball is not embedded if it is below the level of the ground as a result of anything other than the player’s previous stroke, such as when:
  • The ball is pushed into the ground by someone stepping on it,
  • The ball is driven straight into the ground without becoming airborne, or,
  • The ball was dropped in taking relief under a Rule.

Rule 16.3b

Relief for Embedded Ball

  • When a player’s ball is embedded in the general area and relief is allowed under Rule 16.3a, the player may take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):
  • Reference Point: The spot right behind where the ball is embedded.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must be in the general area, and
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point.
  • See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-2 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule allowing relief only for a ball embedded in an area cut to fairway height or less).

A second misconception concerns the Removal of Loose Impediments and will be dealt with in the next post.

Enjoy your golf

Tony

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