Before you all start typing the answer into your keyboards, make sure to read our Rules of Golf guru’s views on this common club situation

Much as I love answering your questions every week, occasionally I see something I think you’ll all find interesting. (I can be wrong about this.)

A playing partner asked me about their ball in what he thought was an animal scraping and whether they could get relief. So let’s get stuck in…

Rules of Golf explained: Relief from animal scrapings

You’ll not find anything in the Rules of Golf about animal scrapings. That’s a big hint in itself. There is, however, an entire definition about animal holes.

And Rule 16.1, covering abnormal course conditions, states that free relief is allowed from interference by animal holes.

But what constitutes an animal hole? The definition says it is “any hole dug in the ground by an animal, except for holes dug by animals that are also defined as loose impediments (such as worms or insects)”.

animal scrapings

The definition goes a bit wider and it also includes the loose material the animal dug out of the hole, a worn-down track, or trail, that leads into that hole, and any area on the ground that’s either pushed up, or altered, as a result of an animal that’s been digging a hole underground.

Players might try and take relief from a hoofprint or hoofmark, but there’s an interpretation to the definition that deals with this. Basically, if the print or mark is isolated and isn’t leading into an animal hole, then you can’t get relief. The exception is if it’s on the green.

There you have it. So what are you looking at? Is it actually a hole (or any of the other defined terms), or, annoying as it might be, has what’s been scratching simply caused an irregularity in the surface? The first you can call an abnormal course condition. The other, you’re going to have to label ‘get on with it’.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. I’m still inundated with requests and trying to get through them.

Just to reiterate, I continue to receive emails from players hoping I can intervene in a club rules dispute. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t do that and would direct those players either to their county or to the rules department at the R&A for a definitive judgement.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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