When is a ball considered to be embedded?
It must be in its own pitch-mark with part of the ball below the level of the ground. However, the ball does not necessarily have to touch the soil to be considered embedded, e.g., grass or loose impediments may intervene between the ball and the soil (Decision 25-2/0.5).Where is relief without penalty available for a ball that is embedded?
When the ball is embedded in any closely mown area through the green.What is a closely mown area?
Any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.Interestingly, the above reference is the only time that the word 'fairway' is mentioned in the Rules of Golf.
What relief is available?
An embedded ball in a closely mown area may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.What if the dropped ball embeds again on impact?
The player is entitled to drop the ball again, Decision 25-2/2.What if the re-dropped ball embeds?
The player may, in equity (Rule 1-4), place the ball as near as possible to the spot where it embedded when re-dropped, but not nearer the hole, Decision 25-2/2.5.Are grass banks or faces of bunkers considered to be closely mown areas?
Only if they are cut to fairway height or less, Decision 25-2/5.If a player strikes their ball straight into a fairway bank, i.e., the ball is never airborne, is the player entitled to relief for an embedded ball?
No, relief is only available if a ball is embedded in its own pitch-mark, which implies that the ball has to be airborne after the stroke.Is there ever free relief for a ball that is embedded in the rough?
Only if the Committee has made a Local Rule permitting relief for an embedded ball through the green, due to abnormal course conditions that warrant such relief. The relief has to specifically permit relief for an embedded ball through the green, for example, it is not sufficient for a notice to say ‘”Winter Rules in operation”.(Edit: I have confirmed that the USGA invokes a Local Rule permitting relief without penalty for embedded balls 'through the green' in all their championships, which I am sure has contributed to the confusion on this subject from those that regularly watch these events on TV).
Wishing you good golfing in 2011, whatever the course conditions.
• Author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’
• Author and narrator of the CD, ’99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’
• Content provider for the iPhone application, 'Golf Rules Quiz'
• Author of the weekly email photo Q&A series, ‘Rhodes Rules School’