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

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

This Rule also covers free relief when a player’s 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). Any defined ground under repair includes both:, immovable obstructionsImmovable Obstruction: Any obstruction that: 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::

a. When Relief Is Allowed

(1) Meaning of Interference by Abnormal Course Condition. Interference exists when any one of these is true:

If the abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: is close enough to distract the player but does not meet any of these requirements, there is no interference under this Rule.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-6  (the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. may adopt a Local Rule denying relief from an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: that only interferes with the area of intended stanceStance: The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke.).

(2) Relief Allowed Anywhere on Course Except When Ball Is in Penalty Area. Relief from interference by an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: is allowed under Rule 16.1 only when both:

(3) No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Ball. There is no relief under Rule 16.1:

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-23  (the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. may adopt a Local Rule allowing free relief from interference by temporary immovable obstructions on or off the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:).

b. Relief for Ball in General Area

If a player’s 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 the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole the player is playing. and there is interference by an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:, the player 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. the original ball or another ball in this relief areaRelief Area: The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors: (see Rule 14.3):

c. Relief for Ball in Bunker

If a player’s ball is in a bunkerBunker: A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed. and there is interference by an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:, the player may take either free relief under (1) or penalty relief under (2):

(1) Free Relief: Playing from Bunker. The player may take free relief under Rule 16.1b, except that:

(2) Penalty Relief: Playing from Outside Bunker (Back-On-the-Line Relief). For one penalty stroke, the player may dropDrop: 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. the original ball or another ball (see Rule 14.3) in a relief areaRelief Area: The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors: based on a reference line going straight back from the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played: through the spot of the original ball:

d. Relief for Ball on Putting Green

If a player’s ball is on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: and there is interference by an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:, the player may take free relief by placing the original ball or another ball on the spot of the nearest point of complete reliefNearest Point of Complete Relief: The reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition (Rule 16.1), dangerous animal condition (Rule 16.2), wrong green (Rule 13.1f) or no play zone (Rules 16.1f and 17.1e), or in taking relief under certain Local Rules., using the procedures for replacingReplace: To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play. a ball under Rules 14.2b(2) and 14.2e.

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

If a player’s ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certainKnown or Virtually Certain: The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move. that the ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:, the player may use this relief option instead of taking stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief:

But if it is not known or virtually certainKnown or Virtually Certain: The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move. that the ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: and the ball is lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’scaddie) begins to search for it., the player must take stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief under Rule 18.2.

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

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

(1) When Ball Is in No Play Zone. If the player’s ball is in a no play zoneNo Play Zone: A part of the course where the Committee has prohibited play. A no play zone must be defined as part of either an abnormal course condition or a penalty area. in or on an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: 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 the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole the player is playing., in a bunkerBunker: A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed. or on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that::

  • No Play Zone in General Area. The player must take free relief under Rule 16.1b.

  • No Play Zone in Bunker. The player must take free relief or penalty relief under Rule 16.1c(1) or (2).

  • No Play Zone on Putting Green. The player must take free relief under Rule 16.1d.

(2) When No Play Zone Interferes with Stance or Swing for Ball Anywhere on Course Except Penalty Area. If a player’s ball is outside a no play zoneNo Play Zone: A part of the course where the Committee has prohibited play. A no play zone must be defined as part of either an abnormal course condition or a penalty area. and 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 the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole the player is playing., in a bunkerBunker: A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed. or on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that:, and a no play zoneNo Play Zone: A part of the course where the Committee has prohibited play. A no play zone must be defined as part of either an abnormal course condition or a penalty area. (whether in an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: or in a penalty areaPenalty Area: An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.) interferes with the player’s area of intended stanceStance: The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke. or area of intended swing, the player must either:

For what to do when there is interference by a no play zoneNo Play Zone: A part of the course where the Committee has prohibited play. A no play zone must be defined as part of either an abnormal course condition or a penalty area. for a ball in a penalty areaPenalty Area: An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there., see Rule 17.1e.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her 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. Under Rule 14.7a.

16.2 Dangerous Animal Condition

a. When Relief Is Allowed

A “dangerous animalAnimal: Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans). condition” exists when a dangerous animalAnimal: Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans). (such as poisonous snakes, stinging bees, alligators, fire ants or bears) near a ball could cause serious physical injury to the player if he or she had to play the ball as it lies.

A player may take relief under Rule 16.2b from interference by a dangerous animalAnimal: Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans). condition no matter where his or her ball is on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:, except that relief is not allowed:

b. Relief for Dangerous Animal Condition

When there is interference by a dangerous animalAnimal: Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans). condition:

(1) When Ball Is Anywhere Except Penalty Area. The player may take relief under Rule 16.1b, c or d, depending on whether the 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 the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole the player is playing., in a bunkerBunker: A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed. or on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that:.

(2) When Ball Is in Penalty Area. The player may take free relief or penalty relief:

For purposes of this Rule, the nearest point of complete reliefNearest Point of Complete Relief: The reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition (Rule 16.1), dangerous animal condition (Rule 16.2), wrong green (Rule 13.1f) or no play zone (Rules 16.1f and 17.1e), or in taking relief under certain Local Rules. means the nearest point (not nearer the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:) where the dangerous animalAnimal: Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans). condition does not exist.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 16.2: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. Under Rule 14.7a.

16.3 Embedded Ball

a. When Relief Is Allowed

(1) Ball Must Be Embedded in General Area. Relief is allowed under Rule 16.3b only when a player’s ball is embeddedEmbedded: When a player’s ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. 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 the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole the player is playing..

Exceptions – When Relief Not Allowed for Ball Embedded in General Area: Relief under Rule 16.3b is not allowed:

(2) Determining Whether Ball Is Embedded. A player’s ball is embeddedEmbedded: When a player’s ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. only if:

If the player cannot tell for sure whether the ball is in its own pitch-mark or a pitch-mark made by another ball, the player may treat the ball as embeddedEmbedded: When a player’s ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. if it is reasonable to conclude from the available information that the ball is in its own pitch-mark.

A ball is not embeddedEmbedded: When a player’s ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. if it is below the level of the ground as a result of anything other than the player’s previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball., such as when:

b. Relief for Embedded Ball

When a player’s ball is embeddedEmbedded: When a player’s ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. 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 the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole the player is playing. and relief is allowed under Rule 16.3a, the player 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. the original ball or another ball in this relief areaRelief Area: The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors: (see Rule 14.3):

[Clarification Available →]

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-2  (the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. may adopt a Local Rule allowing relief only for a ball embeddedEmbedded: When a player’s ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. in an area cut to fairway height or less).

Penalty for Playing a Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her 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. Under Rule 14.7a.

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

If a player reasonably believes that his or her ball lies in a condition where free relief is allowed under Rule 15.2, 16.1 or 16.3, but cannot decide that without lifting the ball:

If the player lifts the ball without having this reasonable belief (except on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: where the player may lift under Rule 13.1b), he or she gets one penalty stroke.

If relief is allowed and the player takes relief, there is no penalty even if the player did not markMark: To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either: the spot of the ball before lifting it or cleaned the lifted ball.

If relief is not allowed, or if the player chooses not to take relief that is allowed:

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly SubstitutedSubstitute: To change the ball the player is using to play a hole by having another ball become the ball in play. Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 16.4: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).