Rule 16 - Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball

Purpose of Rule: Rule 16 covers when and how you may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when you have interference by an abnormal course condition or a dangerous animal condition.

This Rule also covers free relief when your ball is embedded in its own pitch mark in the general area.

16.1  Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions)

This Rule covers free relief that is allowed from interference by animal holesAnimal Hole: 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)., ground under repairGround Under Repair: Any part of the course the Committee defines to be ground under repair (whether by marking it or otherwise)., immovable obstructionsImmovable Obstruction: Any obstruction that cannot be moved without unreasonable effort or without damaging the obstruction or the course, and otherwise does not meet the definition of a movable obstruction. or temporary waterTemporary Water: Any temporary accumulation of water on the surface of the ground (such as puddles from rain or irrigation or an overflow from a body of water) that is not in a penalty area, and can be seen before or after you take a stance (without pressing down excessively with your feet)..

These are collectively called abnormal course conditionsAbnormal Course Condition: An animal hole, ground under repair, an immovable obstruction, or temporary water., but each has a separate Definition.

a. When Relief Is Allowed

Interference exists when any one of these is true:

There is no free relief from an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: An animal hole, ground under repair, an immovable obstruction, or temporary water. when the abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: An animal hole, ground under repair, an immovable obstruction, or temporary water. is out of boundsOut of Bounds: All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds. or your ball is in a penalty areaPenalty Area: An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if your ball comes to rest there..

No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Your Ball. There is no relief:

b. Relief for Ball in General Area

If your ball is in the general areaGeneral Area: The area of the course that covers all of the courseexcept for the other four defined areas: (1) the teeing area you must play from in starting the hole you are playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole you are playing. and there is interference by an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: An animal hole, ground under repair, an immovable obstruction, or temporary water. on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground., you may take free relief by droppingDrop: To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play. Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where your ball must be dropped and come to rest. the original ball or another ball as shown in Diagram 16.1b.

c. Relief for Your Ball in Bunker

If your ball is in a bunkerBunker: A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil has been removed. These are not part of a bunker: and there is interference by an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: An animal hole, ground under repair, an immovable obstruction, or temporary water. on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground., you may take either:

d. Relief for Ball on Putting Green

If your ball is on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole you are playing that is specially prepared for putting, or the Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used). and there is interference by an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: An animal hole, ground under repair, an immovable obstruction, or temporary water., you may take free relief by placing the original ball or another ball as shown in Diagram 16.1d.

e. Relief for Your Ball Not Found but in or on Abnormal Course Condition

If your ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certainKnown or Virtually Certain: The standard for deciding what happened to your ball – for example, whether your ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move. that your ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: An animal hole, ground under repair, an immovable obstruction, or temporary water. on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground., you may take relief under Rule 16.1b, c or d. You do this by using the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: An animal hole, ground under repair, an immovable obstruction, or temporary water. on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground. as the reference point.

 For more information on how to take relief if your ball is in or on an abnormal course condition but has not been found.

f. Relief Must Be Taken from Interference by No Play Zone in Abnormal Course Condition

In each of these situations, your ball must not be played as it lies:

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where you are required or allowed to play your ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 16.1: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play..

16.2  Dangerous Animal Condition

A “dangerous animalAnimal: Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans). condition” exists when a dangerous animal (such as a poisonous snake or an alligator) near your ball could cause you serious physical injury if you had to play the ball as it lies.

 For information on how to take relief from a dangerous animal condition.

16.3  Embedded Ball

a. When Relief Is Allowed

Relief is allowed only when your ball is embeddedEmbedded: When your ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of your previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. Your ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between your ball and the soil). in the general areaGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.. But if your ball is embeddedEmbedded: When your ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of your previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. Your ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between your ball and the soil). on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole you are playing that is specially prepared for putting, or the Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used)., you may markMark: To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either placing a ball-marker right behind or right next to the ball, or holding a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball. the spot of your ball, lift and clean it, repair the damage, and replaceReplace: To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play. your ball on its original spot.

Exceptions – When Relief Not Allowed for Ball Embedded in General Area:

Your ball is embeddedEmbedded: When your ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of your previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. Your ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between your ball and the soil). only if it is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of your previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of your club made to strike the ball. and part of your ball is below the level of the ground.

b. Relief for Embedded Ball

When your ball is embeddedEmbedded: When your ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of your previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. Your ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between your ball and the soil). in the general areaGeneral Area: The area of the course that covers all of the courseexcept for the other four defined areas: (1) the teeing area you must play from in starting the hole you are playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole you are playing., you may take free relief by droppingDrop: To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play. Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where your ball must be dropped and come to rest. the original ball or another ball as shown in Diagram 16.3b.

Penalty for Playing a Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where you are required or allowed to play your ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 16.3: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play..

16.4  Lifting Your Ball to See If It Lies in Condition Where Relief Allowed

If you reasonably believe that your ball lies in a condition where free relief is allowed under the Rules, but you cannot decide that without lifting your ball, you may markMark: To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either placing a ball-marker right behind or right next to the ball, or holding a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball. the spot and lift the ball to see if relief is allowed. The lifted ball must not be cleaned (except when it is on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole you are playing that is specially prepared for putting, or the Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).).

 For more information on lifting your ball to see if it lies in a condition where free relief is allowed, including the penalty for lifting your ball without reasonable belief.