The maintenance team have been at work and your ball has landed in the aftermath. Is it free relief all round? Our Rules of Golf guru takes a look

We’ve been mining the vault I call ‘Things I See on the Golf Course’ in recent weeks and here’s another particular favourite of club players. They get to their ball, usually in the rough, to find it’s sitting in a rut made by a tractor or a mower. They say the damage is ground under repair, lift the ball, and take relief from what they consider to be an abnormal course condition.

But is everything as it seems, or could they be sleepwalking into a penalty? Let’s take a look…

Rules of Golf explained: Are tractor ruts ground under repair?

Sometimes life is not fair and this is one of those occasions where every fibre of your being screams that you should be entitled to relief. It might not be forthcoming, though.

The definitions to the Rules of Golf are full of nuggets and an interpretation to the meaning of ground under repair reveals that not all damage caused by the club maintenance team is ground under repair by default – and a rut made by a tractor is one of the examples.

Now, all is not necessarily lost. Ground under repair can be “any part of the course the committee defines” it to be – whether marked or otherwise.

Depending on how deep the crevice goes, the same interpretation calling foul on you earlier says the committee is “justified in declaring a deep rut to be ground under repair”. You’ll find plenty of clubs do just this.

And if things have got particularly troubling, for example if it’s been raining cats and dogs and vehicles or deep footprints have caused “unusual damage to the course”, Model Local Rule F-4 can also define such areas to be GUR.

So take a look at your local rules, or bring a particularly treacherous looking track to the attention of your club and try your luck.

But just chance it and take relief anyway? You might very well come unstuck and pick up a penalty for playing from the wrong place.

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 and I’ll feature the best in this column. I’ve obviously been quite popular in recent weeks as I’ve got a huge backlog of enquiries and I’ll try to come back to you in due course.

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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