Rules and Rants
A free holiday gift from golf's Rule Book
This holiday season, give yourself the gift that keeps on giving... free relief for common on-course situations.
Cam Crawford, Golf Canada's Coordinator of Rules/Competitions
Published on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 03:19PM EST Last updated on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 10:47AM EST
As we close in on a holiday break here at the Golf House, many of us, including myself still have forthcoming preparations for our respective holiday seasons. With less than a week until Christmas, there’s still plenty of shopping to be done online or at your local retailler. Hopefully you’re done any shopping for the golfer on your list, utilizing my previous blog, or Jeff Brooke’s ‘The 12 gifts of Christmas’ to guide you along the way.
With an abundance of focus on shopping for others this season, I thought I’d take the time to highlight something every golfer can give themselves the next time you're on the golf course... free relief, albeit in certain situations.
Fear not, these free relief procedures do not include complicated Decisions, a “foot wedge” or a Referee officiating your next match. They are straightforward options when dealing with Abnormal Ground Conditions, an Embedded Ball or a Wrong Putting Green, also known collectively as Rule 25 of the Rules of Golf.
Rule 25 can be especially helpful to golfers who continue to play through the fall/winter/spring months in some parts of the country, where certain abnormal conditions can occur frequently.
Before we discuss how you can give yourself the gift of ‘free relief’ this season or next, it is important to note the definition of two out of three of the above-noted elements to Rule 25. See below...
ABNORMAL GROUND CONDITIONS: An “abnormal ground condition” is any casual water, ground under repair* or hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.
*Ground under repair is any part of the course which has been marked by the Committee and is usually marked with a white line, stakes or ropes.
WRONG PUTTING GREEN: A “wrong putting green” is any putting green other than that of the hole being played. Unless otherwise prescribed by the Committee, this term includes a practice putting green or pitching green on the course.
Now that we’ve identified the definition of what an abnormal ground condition is, it is important to clarify what constitutes interference by an abnormal ground condition.
Interference by an abnormal ground condition occurs when a ball lies in or touches the condition or when the condition interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing. If the player’s ball lies on the putting green, interference also occurs if an abnormal ground condition on the putting green intervenes on his line of putt. Otherwise, intervention on the line of play is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.
If you find yourself in a situation where interference from an abnormal ground condition exists, you may play the ball as it lies, or without penalty, lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of the nearest point of relief.
The spot where the ball is to be dropped must not be closer to the hole than the nearest point of relief, or in a hazard or on a putting green. If your ball was in a bunker, where interference also exists from an abnormal ground condition, you may follow the same free relief procedure as outlined above, however the ball must be dropped in the bunker.
Rule 25 also clarifies free relief provided for an embedded ball in any area which has been cut to fairway height or less.
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 sport where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike 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.
When following the relief procedure as outlined above, it is important to note that the pitch-mark (as created by the embedded ball where it came to rest), must not be fixed before dropping the ball or playing your next stroke.
While Rule 25-1 contemplates relief for a ball embedded in a closely mown area (fairway height or less) through the green, Golf Canada and many other organizations have adopted a Specimen Local Rule (Found in Appendix 1; Part B, Section 4a), which further permits relief for an embedded ball anywhere through the green. Check your Local Rules at your club before proceeding with an embedded ball.
The final element to Rule 25 deals with a ball that has some to rest on a wrong putting green, which as the above-noted definition states, is “any putting green other than that of the hole being played.”
Interference by a wrong putting green occurs when a ball is on the wrong putting green.
Interference to a player’s stance or the area of his intended swing is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.
If interference by a wrong putting green exists as outlined above (ie. Your ball lies on the putting green), you must find the nearest point of relief off of the putting green that is not nearer the hole. Once this point has been found, you must drop the ball within one club-length of that point, which may include the collar, apron or fringe, none of which are deemed to be part of the green.
Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of Rule 25: Abnormal Ground Conditions, Embedded Ball and Wrong Putting Green, where you can provide yourself with the gift of free relief – as long as you follow the correct procedure.
For more information, please consult our Rules of Golf publications – for purchase in Golf Canada’s eStore, or at your local book retailer.
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As always, our ‘Ask an Expert’ tool can be utilized and accessed via our website, where we would be happy to answer your Rules-related inquiries.