Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Rule 16 – Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball, covers when and how a player may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when there is interference by an abnormal course condition or a dangerous animal condition.

  • These conditions are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and free relief is generally allowed except in a penalty area.
  • The player normally takes relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief.

Many players assume that they must take Free Relief under a Rule that offers it as an option or take Free Relief because it is offered.

However, there are occasions when a player decides against taking Free Relief because a Nearest Point of Complete Relief may place her/his ball in an unfavourable lie, and so s/he opts to play the ball as it lies.

A player is allowed to play her/his ball as it lies if they so wish.

There may also be occasions when Free Relief may not be allowed, and these are outlined under Rule 16.1a(3) – No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Ball.

There is no relief under Rule 16.1:

  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than an abnormal course condition (such as, when a player is standing in temporary water or on an immovable obstruction but is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because a player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

The diagram below illustrates a typical instance when Free Relief would not be allowed.

Diagram Showiing Relief Options for Ball Unplayable in General Area with Temporary Water

Diagram illustrating that Free Relief is not a right and may not be an option.
This diagram assumes that you are Right-handed.

You discover that your ball is lying in the middle of a bush.

To play a stroke at the ball you find that you will be standing in Temporary Water and decide to take Free Relief under Rule 16, Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions etc.

Unfortunately, because of the lie of the ball, it is not possible for you to play a normal stroke at the ball, even if the Temporary Water was not there; you must be able to play a normal stroke at your ball.

To claim Free Relief under a Rule of Golf that offers it as an option you must, in the first instance, be able to play a normal stroke at your ball. So, in these circumstances, you are not allowed to take Free Relief from the Temporary Water and your only course of action is to declare that your ball, in the bush, is unplayable. (See Rule 19) You now have three options, in each case adding one penalty stroke:

1. You may take stroke-and-distance relief by playing the original ball or another ball from a relief area based on where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6 and Diagram 14.6).

2. You may take back-on-the-line relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball. The reference point is a point on the course chosen by you that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the spot of the original ball. There is no limit on how far back on the line the reference point may be. The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course. In choosing this reference point, you should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).

3. You may take lateral relief. The reference point is the spot of the original ball. The relief area is two club-lengths from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course, including the Temporary Water. If you decide to, and can drop your ball in the Temporary Water, you may then get Free Relief from the Temporary Water under Rule 16, remembering to still include your one penalty stroke for the initial Unplayable Ball.

Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief – Not Nicest

Hope you all are enjoying your golf and feeling that there is some return to normality, especially as many Clubs are beginning to run competitions.

With the return to golf, there have been more questions flowing in, a majority, as expected, are concerning the WHS but questions related to the Rules of Golf are also appearing.

A recent query concerned a ball that lay on a Cart Path (An Abnormal Course Condition), the player realised that the only free relief placed his ball in the middle of a bush. He wondered whether free relief was or could he take relief under the Unplayable Ball Rule instead.

This is not an uncommon situation and one that you could find yourself in on several occasions during your rounds of golf.

The straight answer is yes he  could; a player may declare a Ball Unplayable anywhere on the course provided her/his ball is not in a penalty area, for 1 penalty stroke.

Before you take this decision you need to look closely at the situation and your options.

  1. If you take an unplayable immediately, where will your ball lie.
  2. May it be better to take the relief first and then declare your ball unplayable, this may allow you to drop your ball in a better position.
  3. There is always the option to take stroke and distance and play a ball from the place where you played the last shot.

The diagram below gives you an idea of how to assess the Nearest Point of Complete Relief from an Abnormal Course Condition using relief from a Cart Path as an example.

Diagram of Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief
The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. Free relief is allowed for interference by an abnormal course condition (ACC), including an immovable obstruction, when the ball touches or lies in or on the condition (B1), or the condition interferes with the area of intended stance (B2) or swing. The nearest point of complete relief for B1 is P1, and is very close to the condition. For B2, the nearest point of complete relief is P2, and is farther from the condition as the stance has to be clear of the ACC.

But what if you are physically unable to determine the NPCR because of, for example, the trunk of a tree, a boundary fence, or a boundary wall?

The diagram below illustrates the point where a right-handed player may be unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief from an immovable obstruction and will need to estimate the point under Rule 16. Also see the Definition of Nearest Point of Complete Relief.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed.
B1 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P1 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S1 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P1 – results in player’s stance being out of bounds
B2 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P2 = Nearest Point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S2 = Notional stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief at P2 – unable to take stance because of Boundary Wall
B3 = Position of Ball on Cart Path
P3 = Nearest point of Complete Relief (Estimated)
S3 = Notional Stance used to determine nearest point of complete relief At P3 – Unable to take this stance because of tree trunk

Another situation is shown below when your ball lies close to a cart path. There is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green, but you cannot play towards the green from where your ball lies because of intervention by the tree.

The diagram assumes the player is right-handed. At point A there is no interference by the cart path for a stroke towards the green. However, the player cannot play towards the green from point A because of intervention by the tree. Her/his only reasonable stroke is sideways to the fairway but her/his stance for such a stroke would be on the cart path.
As a result of the tree, the player is entitled to relief under Rule 16 for the sideways stroke since this is not an unnecessarily abnormal direction of play and his NPCR would be Point B. After the ball is dropped within 1 Club-length of point B (within the shaded area) and it comes to rest at point C, the player may then play in any direction s/he wishes.
Enjoy your golf, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like specific content to the My Golf website.

Best wishes

Tony

Is There any Relief Available in Order To Protect The Aprons of Putting Greens During Adverse Weather Conditions?

This time of year, is the time when man Clubs have to deal with Golf in Adverse Conditions, and when I receive many requests regarding possible relief whenm conditions are wet or verging on unplayable.

A question that I was asked this week was:

In winter, aprons can be very wet and chipping or pitching are sometimes necessary to avoid trying to guess the slowing effect of water on a putted ball. My playing partner was concerned about damaging the green and thought there may be a rule covering it? I was unsure.

Note – there was not ‘standing water’.

Secondly a ball landing on a summer green apron when the temporary winter green is some distance away raises the same question about damaging the apron with a large divot. Free relief like it had landed on the summer green? or is that only if a local rule has been adopted? 

PS I suppose the same concern could be applied to landing on the correct green (not apron) but a long way from the hole and considering a pitch shot over very wet grass rather than risking a putt up the green to the normal summer hole.

Under the Rules of Golf, the ‘aprons/fringes’ of putting greens are regarded as part of the General Area of a Golf course and therefore, under normal conditions, there are no general relief options available for balls lying in these areas and they must be played as they lie.

Point Number 1:

In winter, aprons can be very wet and chipping or pitching are sometimes necessary to avoid trying to guess the slowing effect of water on a putted ball. My playing partner was concerned about damaging the green and thought there may be a rule covering it? I was unsure.

Note – there was not ‘standing water’.

Where there are ongoing problems relating to wetness of, or damage to, the course most can be addressed by introducing Preferred Lies, marking affected areas as GUR and/or the introduction of Local Rules.

Relief under Rule 16-1b for Abnormal Course Conditions is optional and wherever practicable, particularly during the playing season, players are given the option to play the ball as it lies if they so wish.

 

Because a player may play a ball as it lies this option, and Preferred Lies, do not solve the problem of preventing damage to an area of a course but Committees do, however, have the power to prohibit players from playing from GUR, by designating these areas as ‘No Play Zones’.

See, Definition of ‘No Play Zones’Rule 2.4 and Model Local Rule E-8.1.

It is recommended that white markings be reserved for GUR where relief is optional and that where play is to be prohibited from GUR (No Play Zones), be marked in an alternative manner e.g. blue lines or white stakes with green tops.

Whenever a Committee has a need for a Local Rule to cover a situation set out in Model Local Rules, it should make use of the relevant specimen Local Rule, the wording of which should conform entirely to that given in the Model Local Rule. Wording that does not conform exactly to the R&A’s specimen wording causes confusion amongst players, particularly visiting players, who are conversant with the R&A’s drafting. Note that Committees do not have the authority to modify a Rule of Golf without prior consent from the R&A.

Other options open to Committees for consideration in protecting the fringes of putting greens are:

Teeing up on the closely mown areas or general area – cannot run qualifying competitions if this procedure is in play.

Lifting from closely mown areas and placing or dropping in the semi-rough

A Local Rule that requires or permits players to lift a ball from a closely mown area and drop or place in the semi rough to protect the fairway is not within the Rules of Golf and any competition played under conditions cannot be qualifying for handicap purposes (CONGU® UHS Decision 1(d)).

Dropping Zones Option to taking relief from Abnormal Course Conditions, Model Local Rule E-1.2 – competitions using dropping zones may be run as qualifying competitions

Use of Fairway Mats

Decision 1(a) of the CONGU® UHS sets out the conditions under which the use of fairway mats is permitted in Qualifying Competitions. It is important that the specimen Local Rule therein is adopted in its entirety. In particular note that for Qualifying Competitions the use of mats is restricted to closely mown areas and that the ball must not be teed-up on the mat (the mat itself may, however, be pegged into the ground). The use of fairway mats for Qualifying Competition purposes is restricted to the period 1 October to 30 April inclusive.

Point Number 2:

Secondly a ball landing on a summer green apron when the temporary winter green is some distance away raises the same question about damaging the apron with a large divot. Free relief like it had landed on the summer green? or is that only if a local rule has been adopted? 

Normally, no relief, because the aprons/fringes and wrong greens are considered to be general area and so will be dealt with in the same way as point 1.

However, under these circumstances, a local rule may be introduced to prevent play from the fringe of a wrong green, Model Local Rule D-4.

Why a similar Rule cannot be applied to a putting green being played to, I do not know.

Regarding the PS:

PS I suppose the same concern could be applied to landing on the correct green (not apron) but a long way from the hole and considering a pitch shot over very wet grass rather than risking a putt up the green to the normal summer hole.

The same concern may apply to landing on the correct green, but there is no Rule of Golf preventing a player from using any club on a putting green, so chipping on a Putting Green is permissible.

Green-keepers may not be too happy if a player takes a divot on a putting green, but a Committee cannot introduce a local rule preventing a player chipping on a putting green.

Enjoy your golf,

Tony

Changing Your Decision When Taking Relief from Temporary Water in a Bunker.

The following question was put to me recently and could be one that many of you may come across during your rounds being played in the adverse weather conditions many are experiencing at this time.

The scenario is that, due to overnight rain, some of the bunkers have temporary water however there is still room to take relief in the bunker and drop and play the ball. The player decides that he still doesn’t like the lie in the bunker so decides to drop outside the bunker (back-on-the-line relief). Under rule 16.1c this would incur 1 penalty stroke. But as the ball would be playable in the bunker shouldn’t rule 19.3 option 4 apply which incurs a penalty of 2 strokes.

Which is correct and why?

The ruling that will apply, depends upon whether the player has or has not taken relief and put a ball into play.

I am reading this scenario as:

The player has decided to take free-relief from the Temporary Water and dropped a ball in accordance with Rule 16.1c within the bunker.

The player then decides that s/he does not like the lie in the bunker and decides to drop outside the bunker on back-on-the-line-relief.

Under Rule 14.3c(1), if the player has dropped the ball in the correct way and it comes to rest within the relief area, then the ball is in play and must be played as it lies.

If the player, having dropped the ball, does not like the lie of the ball then s/he has the option to declare the ball unplayable and take relief under Rule 19.3a, under penalty of one stroke drop the ball within the bunker, or under Rule 19.3b, under penalty of two strokes, take back-on-the-line relief outside the bunker.

If the player takes relief incorrectly, e.g. drops the ball incorrectly, the ball does not come to rest in the correct relief area or dropped in wrong relief area, then the player must correct the mistake before playing the ball.

While being able to correct the error, the player may also change her/his choice of relief under the options available under the same rule that they have chosen to take relief under, which would mean s/he could change her/his mind and drop outside the bunker under back-on-the-line relief still under Rule 16.1c. (Rule 14.5b(2).

If, however, the player has dropped a ball and taken Maximum Available Relief, then decides to take Back-On-the-Line Relief outside the bunker, s/he may do so, because s/he will still have interference from the Temporary Water, for a one stroke penalty

Rule 16.1 Interpretation 16.1c/1: Player Takes Maximum Available Relief; Then Decides to Take Back-On-the-Line Relief

If the player takes maximum available relief, he or she will still have interference from the abnormal course condition and may take further relief by using the back-on-the-line procedure for one penalty stroke. If the player decides to do this, the reference point for back-on-the-line relief is where the ball came to rest after taking maximum available relief.

If, however, the player lifts her/his ball. To take relief under Rule 16.1c, but has not decided which relief option to take, then s/he may, before s/he puts a ball into ply may choose either of the two options available to her/him.

Rule 16.1c Interpretation 16.1c/2: After Lifting Ball Player May Change Relief Options Before Putting a Ball in Play

If a player lifts his or her ball to take relief under Rule 16.1c, he or she is not committed to the intended relief option under Rule 16.1c until the original ball is put in play or another ball is substituted under that option.

For example, a player elects to take relief from temporary water in a bunker and lifts the ball with the intention of taking free relief in the bunker (Rule 16.1c(1)). The player then realizes that where the Rule requires the ball to be dropped in the bunker will result in a very difficult shot.

After lifting the ball, but prior to putting a ball in play, the player may choose either of the two options of the Rule despite the original intention to take relief under Rule 16.1c(1).

Enjoy your golf, despite the weather conditions,

Tony

Can I Get Free Relief from a Flooded Putting Green or Bunker?

Bunkers Filled with Temporary Water

Under normal circumstances Rule 16.1c deals with the problem of Temporary Water in Bunkers.

However, on some occasions, when the amount of water is great and a bunker is flooded, it may not be enough to ensure fair play.

A Committee may, under these circumstances choose to treat that bunker as Ground Under Repair (GUR) in the General Area from which, free-relief would be allowed outside the bunker.

This they may do under a Local Rule, but should only use this rule on a case-by-case basis; it is not permitted to to make a Local Rule that would declare all flooded bunkers as GUR.

Model Local Rule F-16).

Bunker Filled with Temporary Water

Purpose. If a bunker is flooded, free relief under Rule 16.1c may not be sufficient to allow for fair play. A Committee can choose to treat that bunker as ground under repair in the general area from which free relief is allowed outside the bunker.

The Committee should only use this Local Rule on a case-by-case basis and is not authorized to make a Local Rule providing generally that all flooded bunkers are ground under repair. See Model Local Rule F-16.

Model Local Rule F-16

“The flooded bunker on [insert location of bunker; for example, left of 5th green] is ground under repair in the general area. It is not treated as a bunker during the round.

If the player’s ball lies in or touches this ground under repair or the ground under repair interferes with the player’s stance or area of intended swing, the player may take free relief under Rule 16.1b .

All other bunkers on the course, whether they contain temporary water or not, are still bunkers for all purposes under the Rules.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

Should a Committee not adopt this Local Rule, when necessary, then Rule 16.1c must apply, which can lead to some confusion when a bunker is flooded.

I was asked recently to clarify the ruling on relief from flooded bunkers following a player’s recent experience which he describes as follows:

‘The green-keeper forgot to put GUR in a bunker that was 95% under water.
There was a very small bit of dry sand at the edge but I would have had to stand in the water to hit the ball.
I Ended up taking a penalty shot outside the bunker.
Should I have had a free drop?
The rule book is not very clear’.

I understand the problem and agree that the rule, especially in the Players’ Edition is too concise and not clear on how you may take relief in these situations.

We all understand that, normally, when taking relief from an abnormal course condition we must play from an area that provides us with complete relief from that condition, and this applies to position of the ball, stance and area of swing.

In the situation described, in order to have had free relief, the player would have had to have played his ball from within the bunker, either as it lay or by dropping it in the only dry area of sand; but he knew he could not play a stroke when his stance would still be in the abnormal course condition without incurring a General Penalty of 2 Strokes, you must take full relief from the temporary water.

Under the circumstances the player chose a quite reasonable option which, unfortunately, carried a 1-stroke penalty.

However, when your ball comes to rest in an abnormal course condition, as his did in temporary water, in a bunker or on the putting-green and there is no ‘nearest point of complete relief’, the Rules of Golf allow another option in these situations where you can still get free-relief and play your ball from or take a stance at a point that offers the least interference from the abnormal course condition, which could still be in the abnormal course condition.

This is where confusion can arise because not many players know about this option nor, if they do, understand its application fully.

This option is known as taking ‘the Nearest Point of Maximum Available Relief’ and is defined in the Rules of Golf as:

‘The reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition in a bunker (Rule 16.1c) or on the putting green (Rule 16.1d) when there is no nearest point of complete relief.
It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:
• Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
• In the required area of the course, and
• Where that abnormal course condition least interferes with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.
Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play the player would have used for that stroke.
The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).
The point of maximum available relief is found by comparing the relative amount of interference with the lie of the ball and the player’s area of intended stance and swing and, on the putting green only, the line of play. For example, when taking relief from temporary water:
• The point of maximum available relief may be where the ball will be in shallower water than where the player will stand (affecting the stance more than the lie and swing), or where the ball is in deeper water than where the player will stand (affecting the lie and swing more than the stance).
• On the putting green, the point of maximum available relief may be based on the line of play where the ball will need to go through the shallowest or shortest stretch of temporary water.

Therefore in the situation described, the player could have dropped his ball in the small area of dry sand, taken his stance in the temporary water and played his ball, without penalty.

In my opinion, there are six relevant points that you should bear in mind about taking ‘Maximum Available Relief’:

1. This option only applies to situations where there is no ‘nearest point of complete relief’ from an abnormal course condition on a putting-green or in a bunker.

2. Estimating this reference point, where that abnormal course condition least interferes with the stroke you would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there, requires you to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play you would have used for that stroke.
You do not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that you normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

3. There is a difference between the options for on the putting-green and in a bunker; in a bunker the reference point must be in the bunker not in the General Area, whereas on the putting-green the reference point could be in the General Area, because in this situation line-of-play comes into play.

4. If you take maximum available relief, you will still have interference, although hopefully reduced, from the abnormal course condition and if you are still not happy with the lie, you still have the option to take back-on-the-line relief with 1-stroke penalty. If you do this the reference point for taking this relief is where your ball came to rest after taking the maximum available relief.

5. If you drop your ball in an area that provides the least possible interference to your stance or stroke and the ball rolls back into an area of the abnormal course condition that does not provide the same level of relief, then you may re-drop your, should it again roll into the abnormal course condition then you may place it where it contacted the ground on the second drop.

6. If you take maximum available relief from temporary water, for example, and drop your ball in a shallow part of the temporary water, say a depth of ¼ inch, and your ball rolls into a deeper part of the temporary water, say ½ inch, you may lift and re-drop your ball, if it again rolls into the deeper water then you may place your ball at the point where it was last dropped.

I hope this helps to clarify the situation of dealing with relief from flooded bunkers and putting-greens.

Enjoy your golf.

Best wishes

Tony

Email: tony@my-golf.uk

Rules Blog: www.my-golf.uk

Can you Get Lateral Relief from a Yellow Penalty Area?

Lateral Relief from a Yellow Penalty Area?

I recently experienced a situation, after a round of golf, where a member of my golf club suggested that I had allowed a player to take incorrect relief from a Yellow Penalty Area.

It was said that lateral relief was allowed instead of back-on-line and having to play over the Yellow Penalty Area.

The situation was similar to that shown in the diagram below:

In the previous Rules of Golf, back-on-line relief would indeed have required a ball to be dropped at a point on a line or extension of a line from the point of entry of the ball into the penalty area and the hole.

It would not necessarily, however,  have meant having to play over the penalty area, because the relief point would depend upon the point of entry of the ball into the penalty area, the position of the hole and the shape of the margin of the penalty area.

What you have to remember now, in the new Rules of Golf, is yes you have to determine a point on a back-on-line between the point of entry of the ball into the penalty area and the position of the hole and mark it, but that point becomes a reference point from which a 1 club-length relief area can be measured, and not the actual point at which you must drop your ball.

Therefore it is possible to measure the relief area laterally from the margin of the penalty area, and so give the impression that you are taking lateral relief.

So remember, that for all situations where relief is allowable by dropping a ball, you have a relief area in which to drop a ball, depending on the rule that applies that will be either a 1 club-length or 2 club-length area and not just a point.

Enjoy your golf!

Tony

Email: tony@my-golf.uk

Rules of Golf Blog: www.my-golf.uk

PS:  Have added more questions to Advanced Rules of Golf Quiz

Pros Getting it Wrong – Relief from Yellow Penalty Areas

Pros Getting it Wrong – Relief from Yellow Penalty Area

One more error from a Professional Golfer that, by not knowing or applying a Rule of Golf, cost him dearly in a Big Tournament.

But before I say anymore just a reminder of the Definitions of Relief Area and Relief from a Yellow Penalty Area.

  • Definition of Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

  • Relief for Ball in Penalty Area

If a player’s ball is in a penalty area, including when it is known or virtually certain to be in a penalty area even though not found, the player has these relief options, each for one penalty stroke:

(1) Stroke-and-Distance Relief. The player may play the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

(2) Back-On-the-Line Relief. The player may drop the original ball or another ball (see Rule 14.3) in a relief area that is based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the estimated point where the original ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area:

  • Reference Point: A point on the course chosen by the player that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the estimated point (with no limit on how far back on the line):
    • In choosing this reference point, the player should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
    • If the player drops the ball without having chosen this point, the reference point is treated as being the point on the line that is the same distance from the hole as where the dropped ball first touched the ground.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
    • May be in any area of the course except the same penalty area, but
    • If more than one area of the course is located within one club-length of the reference point, the ball must come to rest in the relief area in the same area of the course that the ball first touched when dropped in the relief area.

Relief Yellow Penalty Area
Relief Yellow Penalty Area

DIAGRAM – RELIEF FOR BALL IN YELLOW PENALTY AREA

When it is known or virtually certain that a ball is in a yellow penalty area and the player wishes to take relief, the player has two options, each for one penalty stroke: (1) The player may take stroke-and-distance relief by playing the original ball or another ball from a relief area based on where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6 and Diagram 14.6). (2) The player may take back-on-the-line relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through point X. The reference point is a point on the course chosen by the player that is on the reference line through point X (the point where the ball last crossed the edge of the yellow penalty area). There is no limit on how far back on the line the reference point may be. The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course, except the same penalty area. In choosing this reference point, the player should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).

The point in question then, took place in the 2nd Round of the 2019 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, Friday the 15th March 2019

Tiger Woods scored a quadruple-bogey on the 17th Hole, Island Green, when in fact he could have had an opportunity to have scored a bogey or he might even have holed out for an incredible par.

Why do I say this? Because of where the flag was positioned on the Friday, towards the back of the green, and where his ball actually fell into the water.

Shots Tiger Woods Played at the 17th Hole The Players Sawgrass 2019
Shots Tiger Woods Played at the 17th Hole The Players Sawgrass 2019

It was probably the only pin-position on the green where he could keep the point where the ball went into the penalty area (see 1 in the diagram below), between himself and the hole and not be standing in the water.

Relief Tiger Woods could Have Taken at The Players 17th Hole Sawgrass 2019
Relief Tiger Woods could Have taken at The Players 17th Hole Sawgrass 2019

Under the new rules Woods was perfectly entitled to drop the ball on the walkway to the green, within one club-length (2) of a reference point on a back-on-line-relief from the flagstick to the point where his ball entered the penalty area (1), (See DIAGRAM – RELIEF FOR BALL IN YELLOW PENALTY AREA, above)

Tiger then could have had an ‘easy’ chip, or even a putt, to the flag, rather than playing a shot from the drop zone that he took on and unfortunately also put in the water.

He could not have contemplated this play under the previous Rules of Golf, because in taking relief under a back-on-line-relief the ball had to be dropped on that line of relief and Tiger would have been standing in the Water to play a stroke.

So remember, now, that in the Rules of Golf, when taking relief allowed under a Rule of Golf, determine your reference point according to the Rule you wish to apply e.g. the point your ball is at rest with an unplayable lie, or just behind your ball with an embedded ball, nearest-point-of-complete-relief with abnormal ground condition or immovable obstruction, and a point on the line for back-on-the-line-relief.

The size of the Relief Area will then be determined as either two club-lengths for an Unplayable Lie or Lateral Relief from a Red Penalty Area, or one club-length for all other situations.

The Rules of Golf are designed to help you cope with difficult situations and are not always there to penalise you.

Enjoy your Golf!

Tony

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

No Relief for Ball in Divot Hole

No Relief for Ball in Divot

Rather quiet for now on the Rules-front.

Inevitable in view of the fact that New Rules only 4 weeks away and no one has yet fully played to them.

However I have had a few questions put to me.

Q. I know I may not improve my lie but may I get relief for my ball that comes to rest in a divot-hole or if it has been filled with sand or the divot partially replaced may I treat it as ‘Ground Under Repair’?

A. Unfortunately there is no Free-relief from a Divot-hole, open or repaired. The R&A and USGA refer to the fundamental principles of the game of Golf

  • Play the course as you find it, and
  • Play your ball as it lies

As we all experience, there can be bad outcomes from good shots, and good outcomes from bad shots, it is part of Golf.

The governing bodies consider that “to provide relief in that situation would really challenge that principle”

The other problem is how to define a ‘divot’, would every small indentation in a fairway be a divot, how would a light divot be distinguished from an old divot, what if it is filled with sand or a divot partially replaced – would these be GUR?

There might be situations where players could question every spot in the fairway that they think is unfavourable, it could become a pace-of-play nightmare.

So, although you do not get Free-relief you may declare your ball Unplayable, under Rule 19, and play your ball, applying a 1-stroke Penalty, dropping your ball within a 2 club-length relief area.

There is more to come.

I am hoping to produce a Quick Guide to the Rules of Golf for you to download, as an easy reference for your first rounds of golf under the new Rules of Golf.

I am also working on an interactive Rules Quiz, which will have a range of questions testing your knowledge at three levels.

Meanwhile

Enjoy your golf!

Tony