Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Embedded Ball - Rule 25-2

Regular readers will be aware that I play my golf in Ireland, where at this time of year we are often faced with balls that are embedded. So, I thought that it would be timely to explain when relief without penalty may be taken for an embedded ball and how that relief must be taken. The relevant Rule is 25-2.

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.

Barry Rhodes

• 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’

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Barry, can one after marking, lifting and identifying one's embedded ball, correct the embedded ball mark prior to dropping the cleaned ball as near as possible to the embedded site. The dropped ball must first strike a part of the course through the green and no closer to the hole but if the ball should come to rest in a hazard or a water hazard or rough is that just "the rub of the green" . If the ball comes to rest in an area where relief is possible is this a new and independent issue.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Rule 13-2 states that a player must not improve or allow to be improved, the position or lie of his ball, the area of his intended stance or swing, his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or the area in which he is to drop or place a ball. Therefore, a pitch mark from an embedded ball may not be repaired unless it is to the side of the ball and in no way affects the player's stance, lie or swing. Of course, it may/should be repaired after the stroke is made.

If a dropped ball comes to rest in a hazard, or where relief may be taken under a different Rule, the drop is invalid and the ball must be re-dropped, Rule 20-2c. If the drop is valid and the ball comes to rest in rough, not nearer the hole, then the ball must be played from there.

Barry

courtgolf said...

Barry - is there any explanation of why a ball embedded in the rough doesn't count as an embedded ball with free relief ? (without the local rule, of course) The condition of the ball is still the same - at least partially below ground.

Barry Rhodes said...

Courtgolf,

I am not privy as to the reasons why the Ruling Bodies have decided that there is relief without penalty from an embedded ball only when it lies in a closely mown area. I suspect that it is for the same reason that they only permit mark, lift, clean and place on closely mown areas when 'preferred lies' are in operation. Perhaps they feel that the player should not be given any help when they have failed to keep their ball on the fairway.

The situation is confused by the fact that the USGA always invoke a Local Rule permitting relief for an embedded ball through the green in all their championships, which leads to a lot of confusion from those that follow these events on television.

Barry

Anonymous said...

What if your ball is embedded on a yellow staked water hazard line? Yes actually "on" the line...and due to a very poor job by the local club of marking the hazard line, we could not identify whether any part of the ball was actually inside the hazard line. By the way, the club officials had stated the local rule of lift, clean & place everywhere on the course due to heavy rains and flooding on the course. For arguments sake, let's say that it was determined that half the ball was in the hazard and half was not. What should I have done?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

The line defining a water hazard is inside the water hazard (see Definition of Water Hazard). Because part of the ball was on the line it was inside the margin of the water hazard. Therefore, the embedded ball has to be played as it lies, notwithstanding that there was a Local Rule in operation permitting lift, clean and place, as this does not apply to balls in a water hazard.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry,

I just played in my club championship and my opponent hit his second ball, which became embedded, in the rough (not closely mowed). It could or could not have been from either my oppenent's cart or his spectator's cart driving on/over his ball and thereby embedding it when we went to look for his ball. The club pro ruled that he should have relief according to rule 25-2.

Your thoughts?

Thanks,

BH

Barry Rhodes said...

BH,

Please educate your Club Pro that there is no relief under Rule 25-2 for a ball that is embedded outside of a closely mown area. However, you should check whether there was a Local Rule in operation permitting relief from an embedded ball, as per the specimen in Appendix l, Part B, No.4.

If the ball was embedded because your opponent had run over it in his cart, he incurred a penalty of one stroke for causing his ball to move (Rule 18-2a). If he then dropped the ball instead of placing it where it was when he moved it, the penalty increased to loss of hole as soon as he played it from the wrong place. If the ball had been run over by a spectator's cart (an outside agency), he was entitled to replace it without penalty. Of course, the loss of hole penalty still applied if he dropped the ball and then played it, instead of replacing it. It pays to know the Rules!

Barry

tony said...

Barry, Re;opponent running over his own ball and embedding it,in order to replace the ball in it's original position the embedded mark would have to be repaired. Is this correct? Tony.

Barry Rhodes said...

Tony,

No, where the original lie of the ball has been altered through the green, the ball must be placed in the nearest lie most similar to the original lie that is not more than one club-length from the original lie, not nearer the hole and not in a hazard (Rule 20-3b(i)).

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry on the embedded ball issue is always pick n clean or is there pick n drop. I seem to remember an issue one time over this one time.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

I am confused by your question. When a player is permitted to take relief for an embedded ball, they may lift their ball without marking it, they may clean the ball and they must drop the ball as near as possible to the spot where it lay, but not nearer the hole.

Barry

Anonymous said...


Hi Barry
Sorry for the confusion what I was trying to say was,is it always pick and clean and drop or can you have pick and drop only or pick clean and place for embedded ball. What is the official rule or can all the above be a local rule additions with preferred lies

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Rule 25-2 permits lift clean and drop for a ball that is embedded in a closely mown area. Local Rules sometimes extend this relief to through the green (especially in US). I have never heard of a Local Rule that permits an embedded ball to be placed and doubt whether this would be allowed. Of course, if there is a Local Rule for Preferred Lies, permitting lift, clean and place within a specified distance, then this would apply to an embedded ball as well.

Barry

GregH said...

Hi Many than for your ongoing work.

We all see the ball land & embed from a tee-ing ground, into the first cut just off the fairway.

Local rule for the day is embedded ball may be lifted,cleaned & dropped thru the green.

When we arrive none of us can actually find any sign of the ball.

How should we proceed?

Regards
GregH

Barry Rhodes said...

Greg,

If a ball cannot be found or positively identified it is a lost ball. As the player had not played a provisional ball they had to return to the teeing ground under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1).

Barry

Anonymous said...

Is it allowed to lift and clean the ball at the Semi-green/fore-green? I saw in British Masters 2 players did that. After corect marking.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

There are occasions where a player may lift, clean and replace their ball on the fringe (apron) of a putting green, such as a Local Rule for Preferred Lies and a ball assisting or interfering with play (Rule 22). I did not see the incidents that you describe and suspect that you may be mistaken, as there has been no other report of this on any of my usual sources.

Barry

Paul Godfrey said...

Barry
If a ball bounces and then 'plugs' in the fairway does this still qualify for relief? Our course is very wet at the moment and this has happened.
Paul

Barry Rhodes said...

Paul,

Yes, if the impact of the ball landing after bouncing has created a pitch-mark in the ground on a closely mown area, it is at rest in that pitch-mark and part of it is below the level of the ground, then the player may take relief under Rule 25-2.

Barry

Ivan Blakely said...

Hello Barry,
I played a high approach to an elevated green from about 100m. Others in the group said they saw it bounce, but not settle. On getting up there, the ball was on the fringe and appeared plugged by about quarter of ball. The conditions were dry and firm (summer here in Melbourne :-), so it was arguable whether the ball was in a hole it had made especially after bouncing. I decided to avoid arguments by playing it as it lay, thankfully making the next shot.
Once the ball was clear, it looked like the hole had been created by maybe the toe of a putter - maybe a sign of another's frustration.
Should I or could I have taken relief when the ball was clearly embedded ?
Ian

Barry Rhodes said...

Ian,

Relief is only available for a ball that is embedded in its own pitch-mark, which in the circumstances that you describe seems unlikely. In my opinion, you proceeded correctly by playing the ball as it lay. There are many depressions on a course that a ball can come to rest in.

Barry

Unknown said...

If the ball embeds in a rotten stump while relief is being offered through the green, is the player entitled to relief?

Barry Rhodes said...

Unknown,

There is no relief for a ball that is embedded in a tree stump and the specimen Local Rule for preferred lies in Appendix l, Part B, only applies to a ball lying on a closely mown area through the green. If the Local Rule permits preferred lies anywhere through the green it is almost certain that the competition does not count for handicapping purposes, although I am not an expert in handicapping systems.

Barry

Andy Gibbons said...

WGC
Piercy picks up ball (so ball is in hand) from plugged lie in hazard, then replaces ball in pitch mark in hazard. Then decides he will take a drop so picks up ball again, and hits next shot onto the green.
So how many shots has he taken????

Barry Rhodes said...

Andy.

In my opinion, Piercy is only penalised the one stroke for taking relief from the water hazard. I think that Rule 20-6 absolves him from any other penalty;

"A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly."

But I am open to correction!

Barry

Fred Ambrose said...

Inn a match a ball is seen to bounce into the rough so obviously not plugged (no relief even if so). It is eventually found but it is obvious that it is now imbedded due to a cart running over it. If it is the player's cart then a penalty and a drop, if the opponent, then relief and place but if it cannot be determined who ran over the ball...? I assume one plays it as it lies but wonder if there is a ruling.

Barry Rhodes said...

Fred,

Yes, if there is no evidence that the ball was run over by the player's cart, the opponent's cart, or perhaps another cart altogether, then the ball must be played as it lies.

Regards,

Barry

iki jimmy said...

Barry,
in ref to the question above about lost plugged ball on closely mown, if when the ball landed and you saw a splash and the ground was sodden and casual water lay in the area you known or Virtually Certain the ball landed, and you had water rising under your feet as you searched for the ball there (mainly due to the splash seen), would that be a ball lost in abnormal ground conditions
also can you clarify if abnormal ground conditions are treated the same in NON closely mown areas
what about a lost ball in a flooded water hazard, that has spilled out onto the fairway past the hazard markers ( imagining you are certain or virtually certain the ball went into the overflow part and not within the actual hazard-- recognised by where you saw the splash)
thanks - love your work, often sending links to your pages to golfers who ask our committee questions
thanks grant

Barry Rhodes said...

Grant,

In the citcumstance that you describe it is known or virtually certain that the ball was lost in an abnormal ground condition, so the player may take relief without penalty under Rule 25-1.

The Rules relating to abnormal ground conditions, such as casual water, are the same whether they are in closely mown areas or in the rough.

Decision 25/2 rules on your final question;
Q. If a pond (water hazard) has overflowed, is the overflow casual water?

A. Yes. Any overflow of water from a water hazard which is outside the margin of the hazard is casual water.


Thanks for making others aware of my content.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,

I plugged a ball in the rough and as allowed by a local rule, I lifted cleaned and dropped the ball. I then miraculously stubbed the ball back into its original plug mark. Am I entitled to relief again?

Thanks,

Sean

Barry Rhodes said...

Sean,

No, a player is only entitled to relief under Rule 25-2 when their ball is embedded in a pitch-mark created by the last stroke they made, Decision 25-2/3.

Barry