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Whenever I check the keywords that have been used on various search engines by viewers that have been guided to my blog site, “embedded ball” is always towards the top of the list. I therefore deduce that many golfers do not fully understand this area of the Rules and resort to Internet search engines for help. As we approach the time of year where those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere have begun to encounter embedded balls, both on and off the fairway, I think that it is timely for me to write on this subject again. In this previous blog I answered the most commonly asked questions on embedded balls.
Now let me confirm the situation that applies at any time of year, anywhere in the world, notwithstanding the course conditions. A player may always take relief for a ball that is embedded in a closely mown area. Rule 25-2 states;
A ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in any closely mown area through the green 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. “Closely mown area” means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.Of course, the difficulty that many golfers have is whether they may take relief for a ball that is embedded in ‘the rough’. My understanding is that this subject has been, and probably still is, an issue that the R&A and USGA do not see eye-to-eye on. Back in 2007, prior to the amendments to the Rules of Golf that were announced for January 2008, there were strong rumours / suggestions that Rule 25-2 was going to be extended to permit relief for an embedded ball anywhere through the green. I know that the Golf Club that I am a member of in Dublin, received a letter to this effect from the Golfing Union of Ireland, suggesting that we might want to introduce a Local Rule prior to the anticipated change. Apparently, the pressure for the change was coming from the USGA, but it seems that the R&A were reluctant. This text was taken from the USGA's web site relating to the US Open for 2007;
"The USGA also adopts (and recommends the universal adoption of) the Local Rule for Embedded Balls Through the Green. This Local Rule, in Appendix I; Part B; Section 3a, entitles players to relief without penalty for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark anywhere through the green (as opposed to Rule 25-2 which is applicable only in closely mown areas through the green)."When the 2008 four-yearly amendments to the Rules were announced, the expected change was not included and a Local Rule is still required to permit relief for embedded balls other than on closely mown areas. I understand that this Local Rule is on the hard card for US tour events and operates permanently in most US Golf Clubs. It is definitely not in operation for the R&A's Open Championship (unless course conditions are particularly bad) and is only introduced by most UK and Irish Committees as a temporary Local Rule, when course conditions might interfere with proper playing of the game, including mud and extreme wetness. This extract is taken from the R&A booklet on ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’;
“Rule 25-2 gives relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in a closely-mown area through the green. However, where the ground is unusually soft, the Committee may, by temporary Local Rule, allow the lifting of an embedded ball anywhere “through the green” if it is satisfied that the proper playing of the game would otherwise be prevented. It is recommended that the Local Rule would be for a short period only and, if practicable, confined to specified areas. The Committee must withdraw the Local Rule as soon as conditions warrant and therefore, it should not be printed on the score card.”The USGA’s and R&A’s recommended wording for such a Local Rule is contained in Appendix I, Part B, 4 of the Rules of Golf. Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with the Local Rules in operation before commencing any competitive round of golf.
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