The Embedded Ball   31/07/2019

Rule 16 of the rules of golf covers when and where you may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place than where the ball lies.

One of the most discussed parts of this rule relates to the Embedded ball.

It is important to inform our members how best to understand this rule so that everyone within the Club is playing 'on a level playing field'

It is imperative that ,what is an embedded ball for one person is an embedded ball for all and likewise ,

what one deems not to be an embedded ball is also deemed by everyone not to be too.

Rule  16.3

Embedded Ball

When Relief Is Allowed

(1) Ball Must Be Embedded in General Area. ( ie not in a penalty area {a water hazard or bunker} or on a green)

 Relief is allowed under Rule 16.3b only when a player’s ball is embedded in the general area.

·         There is no relief under this Rule if the ball is embedded anywhere except in the general area.

     ·         But if the ball is embedded on the putting green, the player may mark the spot of the ball and lift and clean the ball, repair the damage caused by the ball’s impact, and replace the ball on its original spot (see Rule 13.1c(2)).

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

·         When the ball is embedded in sand in a part of the general area that is not cut to fairway height or less, or

·         When interference by anything other than the ball being embedded makes the stroke clearly unreasonable (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush).


(2) Determining Whether Ball Is EmbeddedA player’s ball is embedded only if:

·         It is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke, and

·         Part of the ball is below the level of the ground.

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 embedded if it is reasonable to conclude from the available information that the ball is in its own pitch-mark.

A ball is not embedded if it is below the level of the ground as a result of anything other than the player’s previous stroke, such as when:

The ball is pushed into the ground by someone stepping on it,

the ball is driven straight into the ground without becoming airborne, or the ball was dropped in taking relief under a Rule.


Relief for Embedded Ball

When a player’s ball is embedded in the general area and relief is allowed under Rule 16.3a, the player may take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

     ·         Reference Point: The spot right behind where the ball is embedded.

      ·         Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-lengthbut with these limits    

·         Limits on Location of Relief Area:

        o    Must be in the general area, and

o    Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point.

Penalty for Playing a Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.3: General Penalty under Rule 14.7a.

  * continue play of the hole with the ball played from the wrong place, with a 2 stroke penalty in Strokeplay and loss of hole in Matchplay


When a ball is embedded in the general area, free relief may be taken. The reference point for taking relief is the spot right behind where the ball is embedded. A ball must be dropped in and come to rest in the relief area. The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and must be in the general area.

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:

·        The player may lift the ball to see if relief is allowed, but:

·        The spot of the ball must first be marked, and the lifted ball must not be cleaned (except on the putting green) (see Rule 14.1).

If the player lifts the ball without having this reasonable belief (except on the putting green 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 mark 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:

·         The player gets one penalty stroke if he or she did not mark the spot of the ball before lifting it or cleaned the lifted ball when not allowed, and

·         The ball must be replaced on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).

So it is clearly advisable to mark the ball before lifting it....

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.4: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.     (as above  *)

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


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