Please Relief Me, Let Me Go
Senior Rules Officials: Terry McEvilly and Pete Scholz
This month’s article wraps-up the series on relief without penalty. Otherwise known as free relief from certain things on the golf course that would create an unfair situation if the player had to play from them. The most common items that a player is entitled to free relief from include cart paths, sprinkler heads and casual water and other abnormal ground conditions. Such items were covered in previous articles which can be found in the Rule of the Month archive on the OGA.org website. But more infrequently, there are a number of other things on a golf course where a player may or may not be entitled to free relief. This month we take a look at such scenarios. As always, you will find the Definition section of the Rules of Golf Booklet quite helpful in taking this month’s quiz.
- During play of the 18th hole, a player’s ball comes to rest on the 9th green. He may use any club to make his next stroke from the 9th green.
- Practice putting and chipping greens located on the course are wrong putting greens from which play is prohibited.
- During play of the 18th hole, a player’s ball comes to rest on the fringe of the 9th green. In order to make his next stroke, he must take his stance on the 9th green. He must take relief for interference from a wrong putting green.
- A ball bounces out of its own pitch-mark in the fairway and rolls into another pitch-mark. The player is entitled to relief for an embedded ball.
- A ball embedded in the fairway may be lifted, cleaned and dropped within one club-length of where it was embedded. The pitch-mark must not be repaired prior to the drop.
- A Local Rule granting relief through the green for an embedded ball must be in effect for a player to take relief for an embedded ball without penalty in tall grass.
- A player’s ball comes to rest near a beehive and he is unable to make his next stroke without disturbing the hive. As it is unreasonable to require a player to play from a dangerous situation he may take relief without penalty and drop a ball within one club-length of the nearest spot that is not dangerous.
- A player’s ball comes to rest in an area of poison oak and he is unable to make his next stroke without putting himself at risk of exposure. He may drop a ball within one club-length of the nearest spot that is no closer to the hole that will allow him to make his next stroke without the danger of exposure to the plants.
- In a stroke play tournament with the Local Rule for Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) in effect, a player’s ball comes to rest in a lateral water hazard marked as an ESA from which play is prohibited. The player may take relief without penalty from the area by determining the nearest point of relief outside the ESA hazard and drop a ball within one club-length of this spot.
- In a stroke play tournament with the Local Rule for Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) in effect, a player’s ball comes to rest outside an ESA but in order to make his next stroke the player will be standing in the ESA. He may take relief without penalty to avoid the interference.
- False. He may certainly use any club for his next stroke but it must not be from the 9th green. Under Rule 25-3 he is prohibited from making a stroke on a wrong putting green. Relief without penalty is provided for a ball on a wrong putting green and the proper procedure is to drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief which is not closer to the hole.
- True. Many courses have practice greens located near the play of certain holes and the Rules prohibit playing from these practice greens. Fortunately, relief without penalty is provided under Rule 25-3. See the definition of wrong putting green.
- False. This answer requires a search for two definitions. First, in the definition section, any putting green other than the putting green of the hole being played is a wrong putting green. Second, the definition of interference from a wrong putting green is described in the Rule itself. Rule 25-3a explains that interference to the player’s stance is not interference. Therefore, the ball is played as it lies.
- False. Under Rule 25-2 Note 1, for a ball to be considered embedded, allowing free relief, it must be in its own pitch-mark. If the ball had bounced out of and then spun back into its own pitch-mark, the player would be entitled to relief. However, in the case presented, the ball does not lie in its own pitch-mark and must be played as it lies or declared unplayable.
- False. The majority of this question is correct with one exception. Under Rule 25-2, the ball must be dropped as near as possible to where it was embedded. Dropping nearly a club-length away and making a stroke would be playing from a wrong place.
- True. Under Rule 25-2 relief without penalty for an embedded ball is only available when the ball is embedded in an area of closely mown grass. “Closely mown area” means areas of the course cut to fairway height or less. Generally, most professional, amateur and club tournaments will have the Local Rule in place granting relief for an embedded ball through the green (see definition of “through the green”).
- True. In equity (Rule 1-4), the player may proceed by determining the nearest spot that is not closer to the hole, where he can safely make a stroke and must drop the ball within one club-length of this spot. It is not the intention of the Rules to put a player in harm’s way by expecting the player to play from a dangerous situation (See Decisions 1-4/10 & 11). However, see Question 8.
- False. The two Decisions mentioned in Answer #7 explain that equity is used in dangerous situations that are not normally found on the course. While a ball located in an area of poison oak may be dangerous, it is merely a very unpleasant lie. Similar to a ball in a deep thicket or briars, equity may never be used simply to escape unpleasant lies.
- False. Under the Local Rule (Appendix I), when a ball is in an ESA that has been defined as a water hazard or lateral water hazard, the ball must not be played and the player’s only option is to proceed under Rule 26-1 incurring a penalty stroke for relief from the hazard. See Question 10 for further clarity on how this Local Rule works.
- True. Since the ball lies through the green, i.e. not in the hazard, the player may determine the nearest spot that is not closer to the hole, where if the ball was positioned, no interference from the ESA would exist. He must drop the ball within one club-length of this spot, no nearer the hole. If the player failed to take relief as described and plays a stroke while standing in the ESA, he has breached the Local Rule and would incur a penalty of two strokes.