If I had a top 10 of emails I get on rules subjects, this one would be in it – a ball that’s buried either in the wall, lip, face, or revetted edge of a bunker.
Not only does the sight of your ball crushed into soil seem to send many of you into a quiver, but there is also the obvious question: ‘if I can take relief, where do I?’
Do you have to drop into the bunker? What if you can’t get the ball to remain in its relief area?
Never fear golfers. I am hoping the next few paragraphs will help clear your mind and deal with a situation that we can see relatively frequently out on the course.
Golf ball embedded in bunker
If the ball is embedded in sand, tough luck. If, though, it is embedded in the “lip, wall or face” then rejoice.
These are not part of a bunker, says the definition: “A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf, or artificial materials”.
So where is it then? It’s in the general area and you can take embedded ball relief under Rule 16.3b.
There is a caveat. If you’re at a links course in particular, make sure to look at the Local Rules on the back of the scorecard or in the clubhouse. It’s not uncommon for clubs to refuse free relief for a ball embedded in the stacked turf face or soil above a bunker. The R&A do this at their championships, including The Open, and so do England Golf.
If you’re not stymied in this way, though, then you can have free relief. Your reference point is the spot right behind where the ball is embedded and you drop in a one club relief area.
That relief area can’t be closer to the hole then that reference point, must be in the general area, and the ball has to come to rest in the relief area.
The latter of which begs the question, ‘what if it doesn’t?’ If you drop and your ball lands in the bunker, for instance, you are dropping again. If you do it that and it still doesn’t stay in the relief area then you need to try and place it.
Maybe you can get it to stick in a stacked turf face but, for most of you, you’re not going to be able to place it either. But you’ve got to try.
You do it twice and then, under Rule 14.2e, you “must replace the ball by placing it on the nearest spot where the ball will stay at rest” that is in the general area and no nearer the hole.
Let’s go back. You also know that to take embedded ball relief, you use the spot immediately behind the ball that’s in the general area. What if there isn’t such a spot?
What if it embeds in the wall or face right above a bunker, and there is nothing below it but sand? There is a clarification to Rule 16.3b that reveals what to do.
You are required to find the nearest spot in the general area that “is not nearer the hole to the spot immediately behind where the ball embedded, and this spot becomes the reference point for establishing a relief area”.
The clarification says that, often, this will be very close to the spot behind where the ball embedded. But it also allows for the possibility that it could be “some distance away” and you might have to move either left or right to find that spot that isn’t closer to the hole.
Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?
Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s Level 3 rules exam with distinction, I’ll try to help by featuring the best in this column.
You can read all of Steve’s Rules of Golf explained columns here.
Did you know about these rules for golf ball embedded in bunker? What’s the most difficult situation you’ve encountered? Let me know with a tweet.
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