What’s the difference between animal scrapings and an animal hole – and do the Rules of Golf give you a break from both?
One of the best things about golf is being in and around nature. Is there a better sight than the deer streaking across the fairway in the early morning dew? Or the tame squirrel begging for a titbit?
We’ll try to ignore the darn crows that nick the pasty right off the top of your bag.
The issue with playing a game in and around such creatures, though, is that our golf course is their home – and sometimes what they do in their ‘back yards’ impacts on how we might want to play a shot.
Especially when they start digging. I’m often asked about animal holes, even more so about scrapings, and whether players can have free relief. What you can do is definitely confusing for the club golfer, so let’s see if we can clear it up once and for all…
Relief from animal scrapings
You won’t find anything in the Rules of Golf about animal scrapings. That is your first clue. There is, however, an entire definition about animal holes.
Rule 16.1, covering abnormal course conditions, says free relief is allowed from interference by animal holes.
But what is 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)”.
The definition goes further and an animal hole 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.
You might think animal footprints are absolutely nailed on for free relief, but if they are not part of the track, or trail, leading into an animal hole then it is no dice as far as the definition is concerned.
You can, however, repair the damage from animal tracks or hoof indentations on the green as part of Rule 13.1c.
There you have it. What is your ball lying on then? Is it a hole (or any of the other defined terms), or 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’.
Got a question for our expert?
Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.
What do you think about these golf rules on animal scrapings? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.