Rule of the Month: Abnormal Course Conditions/Embedded Ball
February 1, 2024 / by Jerry Stewart
The rainy season is here, which means you may occasionally find your ball in a puddle or plugged in the turf? What now?
Certain conditions are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, so free relief is provided as an option. This includes interference from temporary water, ground under repair, animal holes, and immovable obstructions (such as carts paths and sprinkler heads). All of these things are collectively known as abnormal course conditions. You get free relief when the condition interferes with your lie, stance, or area of intended swing. When an abnormal course condition only interferes with your line of play, free relief is not provided.
To take free relief, you first have to find the nearest point of complete relief, which is the spot on the course nearest to where your ball lies, but not nearer the hole, where you could play your next stroke with no interference from the condition you’re taking relief from. Then drop a ball within one club-length of that point not nearer the hole.
If your ball is stuck in the ground (embedded) anywhere except in a bunker or a penalty area, generally you get free relief. Your ball must be found to take free relief.
Q.My ball is in a fairway in a puddle of water (temporary water) – what are my options?
A. Your ball is in what the Rules call “temporary water.” You may play your ball as it lies or take free relief. You take free relief by finding the nearest point of complete relief where you are clear of the puddle and then drop your original ball or another ball away from the puddle and within one club-length of that point not nearer the hole (see Rule 16.1b). You may also take relief from a puddle of water if your ball is in a bunker or on the putting green (see Rule 16.1c for the bunker or Rule 16.1d for the putting green), but you do not get relief from a puddle inside a penalty area.
Q:. The bunker is filled with water – what are my options?
A. When the bunker is filled with temporary water, you may play your ball as it lies or take free relief in the bunker. When taking free relief, you must find the nearest point of complete relief in the bunker and drop within the one club-length relief area (see Rule 16.1c(1)). If complete relief is not available, you may take free maximum available relief in the bunker and drop within the one club-length relief area from the point of maximum available relief (see Rule 16.1c(1)). Additionally, for one penalty stroke you may drop a ball outside the bunker by going back-on-the-line as far as you’d like keeping the point where your ball lies in the temporary water between you and the hole (see Rule 16.1c(2)).
Q: My ball is stuck in the ground (embedded) – what are my options?
A. You may play it as it lies or take free relief by dropping the ball within one club-length of the spot right behind where the ball is embedded (see Rule 16.3b).
Let the NCGA be your guide to the Rules of Golf
Want to learn more? The NCGA is offering a series of On-Course Rules Seminars in April. Learn more by visiting pages.ncga.org/rules-seminars-on-course