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Rules Blog: Embedded Balls

BARRY Rhodes clears the air when it comes to the sometimes confusing rule subject of embedded balls.

MOST golfers who continue to play during their winter season will regularly experience embedded ball situations.

You may be interested that when I check the search keywords that have attracted new visitors to my blog site on the Rules of Golf the ‘embedded ball’ term comes out top, so there is obviously a good deal of confusion about when and where it applies.

Here then is a list of frequently asked questions and answers on the subject of an embedded ball. 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.

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 (Decision 25-2/6).

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”.

With regard to the last point, it is my understanding that the USGA invokes a condition of competition permitting relief without penalty for embedded balls 'through the green' in all their championships, which can cause confusion to those of us that watch their televised events.

About the author:

Barry Rhodes

Barry Rhodes, a resident of Dublin, Ireland, is qualified as a Chartered Accountant but has spent most of his career in senior sales, marketing and management roles within the information and communication technology sector in Ireland. He is an enthusiastic, high handicap golfer who developed an interest, then a fascination, and now an obsession with the Rules of Golf. 

Barry’s relationship with the Rules began in 2000 with his participation in the inter-club Rules of Golf quiz competitions, organised by the Royal & Ancient for Golf Clubs in Great Britain and Ireland. This progressed to him writing articles, running quizzes, and delivering presentations on the Rules at various Golf Clubs and corporate functions.

In March 2008, Barry became the first person to achieve a 100% correct mark on the public Advanced Rules of Golf Course examination, run by the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) in their headquarters at The Belfry, West Midlands, UK.

Barry is author of the eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 - 2015’. To purchase the eBook, click here.

He writes a weekly web blog, containing interesting content for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. To visit the blog, click here.

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