Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ask Linda #440-Embedded ball confusion

Hi Linda,
Could you please give a clarification of the "Embedded Ball' rule according to the USGA?
We have some confusion as to where we get relief. The confusion seems to be with the terms…THRU THE GREEN and…CLOSELY MOWN AREAS.
Do you take relief off the fairway?  Do you get relief in the woods that are within bounds of the golf course?
Dear Lulu,

The embedded ball rule states that you may lift, clean, and drop a ball that was embedded in a closely mown area through the green. The ball must be dropped as near as possible to where it was embedded, no closer to the hole [Rule 25-2].

The Rule goes on to explain that a “closely mown area” is any area of the course cut to fairway height or less. This means all fairways, aprons around the green, and dew paths (that’s when there is an area of rough between the tee and the fairway through which a path is mowed so golfers can walk without slogging through tall grasses or whatnot).

Basically, if your ball is embedded anywhere but on a fairway, apron or dew path, you do not get free relief.

When course conditions are so wet that the Committee decides to allow golfers free relief from an embedded ball that lies “through the green,” they may adopt the Local Rule that allows such relief [Appendix I, Part B, 4a]. Therefore, you must learn the meaning of “through the green” to understand your rights.

“Through the green” means the whole area of the course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards. (When you read the embedded ball rule, you will notice that the words “through the green” are written in italics. Every time a word or expression appears in italics in the rulebook, that means that you can find the meaning of that term in the Definitions section located in the front of the book.)

Armed with the definition of “through the green” and the explanation of “closely mown areas,” you can now understand that you are entitled to free relief for a ball that is embedded in a fairway, an apron, or a dew path. You must drop your ball as close as possible to where it was embedded.

You are only entitled to relief for a ball that is embedded in the rough (the woods are in the rough) if the Local Rule has been put into effect. You are never entitled to free relief for a ball embedded in a hazard, because hazards are not “through the green.”

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ask Linda #439-Drop on green from bunker?

Hello Linda,
You state in Ask Linda #385 that there are 2 situations where after taking a stroke penalty you can, if lucky enough, drop your ball on the green:
1) lateral water hazard
2) unplayable ball (provided it is not in a bunker )
Is it not possible that your ball could be dropped onto the green if:
1) you seek relief from an immovable obstruction if your ball lies in a bunker
2) abnormal ground conditions if your ball lies in a bunker
In both these situations a penalty stroke is involved.

Dear Lou,

Nice try, Lou, but the answer is no. When you take relief from an immovable obstruction or an abnormal ground condition in a bunker, and you choose the one-stroke-penalty option of taking the ball out of the bunker, the ball must be dropped behind the bunker. Picture a line that starts at the hole, passes through where your ball lay in the bunker, and goes straight back to infinity. You may drop anywhere on that line, behind the bunker [Rule 24-2b(ii)(b)].

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ask Linda #438-Thrown towel hits ball

Dear Linda,

Yesterday, while we were playing our home course, we were playing greens that were very slick and therefore would cause our putts to roll for a considerable time.  While on the green, player #1 hit a putt that was at a considerable length of distance away from the hole.  While the ball was in motion, player #2 took a towel that he was using to clean his ball, and tried to throw it off of the green.  The towel did not make it off the green and instead blocked the motion of the ball that was in motion.

In this case, please assume that there was no ill attempt in any fashion by player #2, just a bad throw. 

The question is if the towel should be considered simply an outside agency, or if player #2’s action is covered under some other part of the rulings because it was thrown while the ball was in motion.  It would seem to me that players should be forced to take extra caution while others are playing, but I cannot find any infraction as far as I can see.

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

If the towel had been thrown deliberately, Player #2 would incur a two-stroke penalty under Rule 1-2. If it was further determined that he gained a significant advantage, or that the other player was significantly disadvantaged, he would be disqualified.

However, you have indicated that there was no malice aforethought. In your scenario, the towel was an outside agency. Since the ball was deflected by an outside agency after a putt from on the green, the stroke is canceled. The ball must be replaced and replayed [Rule 19-1b].

The only action required of Player #2 is a sheepish and sincere apology.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ask Linda #433a-Embedded ball relief on PGA Hard Card

Hi Linda,

My understanding is that the PGA tour applies the embedded ball local rule for every tournament.

Isn't this a violation of the rules of golf, as unusual conditions do not exist every week?


Dear Lou,

The intent of the Local Rules is to provide relief for abnormal conditions. However, the Committee in charge of the competition has the option to adopt any or all of the Local Rules in Appendix I whenever they see fit. And if they judge that certain Local Rules are appropriate for all their tournaments, they are entitled to write them on their Hard Card (a list of Local Rules in effect at all of their tournaments).

I wasn't aware that the Local Rule for embedded balls is on the PGA Hard Card, but it doesn't surprise me. It saves the Committee the time and effort to inspect every inch of the rough for low spots that might remain soggy even in dry conditions.

The Local Rule for embedded balls through the green is printed on the Hard Card for the local tournaments that I run in southern New Jersey for the very reason I just mentioned.

What puzzles me is why this is not a standard rule in the Rules of Golf. Having to hit out of the rough is difficult enough without having to add a one-stroke penalty to your score to extricate an embedded ball. And I suspect that a good number of golfers are not aware that relief for an embedded ball is only available in closely mown areas.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ask Linda #437-One-stroke penalty or two?

Dear Linda,

I have only been playing golf for 4 years but I am totally hooked on the game and love receiving the emails in which you explain how the rules affect different situations which can arise during a game of golf.

I found that when I started to play the game many of the people I played with had their own "interpretations" of the rules.  I have made a point of trying to increase my knowledge of the rules of the game and I believe that this has helped me in reducing my handicap. I find that your website has been a great help as I can relate to actual situations rather than simply reading the rules from the book.

My question to you is that I sometimes struggle to determine if an infringement should incur a one or two stroke penalty and was wondering if there is an easy way to determine the number.

Thanks for providing this service and this novice golfer appreciates all your hard work and effort.


Dear Lulu,

Kudos to you, Lulu, for working hard to learn the Rules of Golf.

Yours is an excellent question. If you have a few spare hours, sit down with a rulebook and a pad and list all the infractions and their accompanying penalties. As you do this, you will start to get a feel for the appropriate number of penalty strokes. There is a certain logic to the penalties (believe it or not), and if you understand that logic you won’t have to memorize long lists of infractions.

Here are a few tips that might help:

Rules that add a one-stroke penalty to your score are typical occurrences during a round of golf. None of them involves a deliberate, planned action on your part. You make little mistakes in life as in golf – you clean up your spilled milk with a sponge, and you clean up your minor golf mishaps with a one-stroke adjustment. Here is a sampling of one-stroke-penalty Rules. See if you don’t agree that they are simple, common errors:

• Rules related to accidentally moving a ball (e.g., after address; deflected by you, your partner, or your equipment; during a practice swing; while removing a loose impediment). They escalate to a two-stroke penalty if you fail to replace the ball before you hit it.

• Rules involving relief from normal golf course conditions (e.g., water hazards; unplayable; lost; out of bounds). They escalate to a two-stroke penalty if your relief procedure is incorrect.

• Rules regarding marking, lifting, and replacing your ball entail a one-stroke penalty if you don’t follow the correct procedure.

• Small stuff that you shouldn’t do (e.g., cleaning a ball when not permitted; not marking a ball when you should; dropping a ball incorrectly; lifting your ball because you think it might interfere with someone’s else’s play when you haven’t been asked to do so).

Rules that tack on a two-stroke penalty are designed to stop you from taking a deliberate action that is against the Rules. These are serious violations that you can avoid simply by knowing that they are prohibited. Fortunately for all of us, they do not occur with great frequency. I am not going to list every infraction that will add a two-stroke penalty to your score, but read the following examples and see if you don’t agree that most of them are fairly uncommon and could easily be avoided if you take the time to learn the Rules:

• Exerting influence on a moving ball.
• Carrying more than 14 clubs.
• Substituting a ball during play of a hole when there is nothing wrong with the one you are using.
• Arriving late to the first tee.
• Undue delay; slow play.
• Taking a practice shot during play of a hole.
• Asking for or giving advice.
• Moving a tee marker.
• Hitting your tee shot from outside the tee markers.
• Improving your lie, the area of your intended stance or swing, or your line of play.
• In a hazard: testing the condition, touching the ground, or moving a loose impediment (no penalty if you move a loose impediment to find or identify your ball).
• Hitting a wrong ball.
• Touching your line of putt, repairing damage on the green other than a ball mark or an old hole plug, testing the surface of the green.
• Hitting the flagstick while attended, the person attending it, or an unattended flagstick if you putt from on the green.
• Accidentally moving your ball and failing to put it back before you hit it.
• Failing to put your ball back before you hit it when your ball at rest is moved by another ball in motion.
• Moving your ball back instead of playing it as it lies when your ball in motion is deflected.
• Making a mistake when you lift, drop, or place a ball and not correcting it before you hit the ball.
• Playing from the wrong place.

There is no substitute for knowing the Rules. While you can’t master them in one reading, even a rudimentary knowledge of the Rules will enhance your golf experience. There is a logic to the Rules that will become apparent as you study them. And, as you so astutely point out, knowing the Rules can help to lower your scores.  

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ask Linda #436-Too steep to drop

Dear Linda,

Yesterday, during our club's monthly tournament, my fellow competitor had the following situation, which I would appreciate your advice. Unfortunately, I did not carry my camera with me to take a picture of the situation but I tried to draw a sketch (to the best of my ability) to illustrate it.

The attached document contains the sketch of the situation. Allow me to give you a brief description of the sketch. On the left side of the drain, the terrain is mildly uphill and sparsely populated with trees. However, the immediate terrain on the left of the drain is a very steep slope (about 70º). From the top of the drain (ie. same level of the road) to the top of the steep slope, the maximum distance is about 5 feet.  
On the immediate right side of the road, the fairway slopes downwards several feet; towards the green, it levels up. The road is a gentle uphill towards the green and until the next tee-box.

My fellow competitor's ball was at rest in the drain on the left side of the road (at A). In our local rule, if the drain is running parallel and adjoining the road, it is considered to be part of the road. In this case, the player may take a relief from the road without penalty, as per Rule 24-2. Unfortunately, the steep slope on the left of the drain is at its maximum distance (about 5 feet) to the top of the steep slope (at C). He wanted to drop his ball around B and I told him this is not correct because his nearest point of relief (NPR) is at X. Because of the steep slope, it is near impossible to stand on the steep slope in determining X. So, I estimated where X should be. X is on the steep slope and the one club-length drop area (even with the driver length) would be on the steep slope. If he drops the ball in the dropping area, the ball would inevitably roll into the drain. After 2 drops, he would then place the ball on the steep slope where the ball first struck the ground during the re-drop but it would never come to rest at that spot (due to the steep slope and potential danger of falling). Then, as per Rule 20-3d, he needs to place the ball at C and proceed from there. I believe this would be the proper procedure to take relief for this situation.

In my scenario, I asked him to place his ball at C straight away (to save time). In his overall results, it does not matter because he was not in the winning circuit. I understand this is beside the point. Anyway, my main purpose of seeking your advice on this scenario is as follows:
1. in this situation, should there be a designated dropping zone (DZ)?
2. if yes, where should the DZ be located?
3. if no, due to the potential danger of falling in determining X (the NPR), is it a must to go thru the process in determining X and then dropping the ball in the dropping area before placing the ball at C?
Please comment.

Thank you and best regards

Dear Lou,

I would not recommend a Dropping Zone in this situation, since it is not impossible to find relief.

Your procedure in estimating the area in which to drop the ball was correct. It is not required that you take your stance and measure a club-length as long as the area in which you will drop the ball satisfies the requirements of the Rule [24-2b(i)].

You may not place the ball at C without following the correct procedure:
1. Drop the ball.
2. When it rolls into the drain, drop it a second time.
3. When it rolls into the drain again, place it where it struck the course.
4. If it rolls more than two club-lengths from that spot, place it at the nearest spot where it will come to rest.

You cannot assume that C will be the correct spot, since dropped balls do not always behave exactly as you might expect.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ask Linda #435-Island green drop

Hi Linda,
Can you please provide a ruling on a situation we had this Sunday in our golf society?

The temperature was below zero and the greens were frozen solid; we were playing an island hole as our nearest the pin hole.

It was about 110 yds and the green is completely surrounded by water except for a small walkway to gain access to the island.

If you imagine the green/lake as a clock face, at 9 o’ clock there is a drop zone on the edge of the lake.

One of our groups went into the water from the tee and then took their 3rd shots from the drop zone.

Another group landed on the green and then skidded through into the water.

They then proceeded to the green and then dropped their next balls on the island at the nearest point of relief that was not nearer the hole, which was at the back of the island. (They commented that if there had not been a point of relief on the island that was not nearer the hole they would have also gone to the drop zone).

Can you please tell me which group was correct? I am assuming it was the group who went to the drop zone, but can you confirm it for me please?

Many thanks,

Dear Lou,

You are correct. The group using the dropping zone proceeded correctly; the other group did not.

The Committee has the authority to establish a dropping zone for an island green [Decision 33-2a/10]. A player would then have the option to use the dropping zone, in addition to the relief options in Rule 26-1 for a ball in a water hazard.

Assuming the water to the rear of the green is marked as a lateral hazard, the players in the second group did have the option to drop within two club-lengths not nearer the hole. However, there is no option to drop at the nearest point of relief when taking relief from a water hazard. The place the players chose to drop was not within two club-lengths of where the ball crossed the margin of the hazard (judging from your diagram). Their only choices within the Rules were to use the dropping zone or return to the tee.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ask Linda #434-Hit ball deeper into hazard

A player’s ball, from the tee box, lands in a yellow stake hazard. It appears that the ball is playable but after taking a stroke, the ball advances around six inches and buries under more leaves and debris becoming unplayable. What are the options at that point and what are the penalty strokes? Curious Lou.

Dear Lou,

The options are explained in Rule 26-2. Here are your choices, all of which will add a one-stroke penalty to your score:

1. Drop a ball in the hazard where the first stroke from within the hazard was made.
2. Drop a ball behind the hazard on the extended line that starts at the hole and runs through the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.
3. If this was a lateral hazard, drop a ball outside the hazard, not nearer the hole, within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. You may drop on the other side of the hazard at a point that is equidistant from the hole.
4. Play a ball from the spot where the last stroke outside the hazard was made. If it was your tee shot, the ball may be re-teed. Elsewhere you must drop it.

I would not recommend choice #1. If you drop in the hazard, and then decide not to play the ball, you may proceed under any of the other options, but you will have to add a second penalty stroke to your score.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ask Linda #433-Embedded ball relief

Hi Linda,
Could you please let me know the ruling on balls that have embedded into the ground.

My society plays throughout the year and during the winter months in the UK it is common for the ball to splat into the ground and become embedded. We have always allowed the player to lift and clean the ball and replace it as near as possible but not nearer the hole.

Is this correct or are there certain conditions when balls can or cannot be lifted?


Dear Lou,

When a ball is embedded in any closely mown area (fairways, dew paths, swaths through the rough), you may lift, clean, and drop it as close to where it lay, no closer to the hole. This is a free drop [Rule 25-2].

This is different from other free drops in that you are not entitled to drop a club-length away – your drop must be right next to the pitch mark.

If the ball rolls back into the pitch mark when you drop it, you must re-drop [Rule 20-1c(v)].

If conditions are so poor that players should be given permission to take relief for an embedded ball through the green, the Committee may adopt Local Rule 4a (see Appendix I, Part B, in the back of the Rule Book). This will allow the player to take free relief for a ball embedded in the rough. There is no free relief for a ball embedded in a hazard under any Rule.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ask Linda #430a-Reader adds posting info

Dear readers,
The excerpts below are from The USGA Handicap System manual. The USGA is trying to drive home the points that (1) you must post scores from both match play and stroke play, even when you do not complete a hole; and (2) if you do not post a score, the Handicap Committee has the authority to post it for you.

Dear Linda,

I came across the following from the USGA handicap manual, which would be relevant to the scenario from Lulu of NZ [Ask Linda #430-Not posting high scores]:

 c. Scores in All Forms of Competition
Scores in both match play and stroke play must be posted for handicap purposes. This includes scores made in match play, in multi-ball, or in team competitions in which players have not completed one or more holes or in which players are requested to pick up when out of contention on a hole. (See Decision 5-1c/1 and Section 4.)

 f. Committee Posting a Score For a Player
If a player fails to post a score, the Handicap Committee may post the score without the player's authorization. (See Section 8-4b.) In a competition, the committee in charge of the competition may post the scores of all competitors. The committee must notify the players that it will post the scores in order to prevent scores from being posted by both the players and the committee.

With best regards,
Lou from Malaysia

Dear Lou,
Thanks for the reinforcement.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What scores to post

April 1 is just around the corner. This date means that New Jersey will once again be officially “in season,” and we will be required to post all rounds we play under the Rules of Golf.

It is the ideal time to remind everyone of what scores should be posted, and how to post those scores. First, we need to define three essential terms: ESC Score, Most Likely Score, and Par Plus Handicap Score.

• ESC Score
“ESC” stands for Equitable Stroke Control. If you have an unusually bad hole, you may be required to lower that hole’s score before you total your 18-hole score and post it.

Here are the ESC reductions:
If your Course Handicap (CH) is 9 or less, the maximum score you may post for any given hole is double bogey.
If your CH is 10-19, your maximum is 7.
If your CH is 20-29, your maximum is 8.
If your CH is 30-39, your maximum is 9
If your CH is 40 or more, your maximum is 10.

Please remember that if you are playing a round and you shoot 92, 92 is the number that will count for the day’s competition. However, when you post that score in your handicap record, you will apply the ESC adjustments to any holes where you exceeded your maximum score. So if your CH is 15, and you scored 8 on three holes, your competitive score would still be 92, but you would post 89 in your handicap record (the maximum score you are permitted to post on any hole is 7 if your CH is 15).

• Most Likely Score
When a player does not complete a hole, as often happens in match play and better ball competitions, he must record his “most likely score” on that hole for handicap purposes. The score would be the number of strokes already taken plus the number of strokes the player believes necessary to finish the hole. This is a judgment call. Ordinarily, if your ball is on the green but not in “gimme” range you would add 2 strokes to your score; if you’re within pitching distance, you would add 3 strokes (the pitch plus two putts).

• Par Plus Handicap Score
Perhaps the hour is growing late, so you and your friends decide to call it a day and not play the last 2 holes. The score you record for the holes you do not play is par plus any additional strokes you would receive based on your Course Handicap. Let’s say your Course Handicap is 13. The 17th hole (par 5) is the #3 handicap hole, and the 18th hole (par 4) is the #14 handicap hole. For handicap purposes, you would record a 6 on the 17th hole (par plus 1, according to your Course Handicap of 13, which would entitle you to a stroke on the #3 handicap hole), and a 4 on the 18th hole (with a Course Handicap of 13 you would not be entitled to a stroke on the #14 handicap hole).

Now let’s take a look at what scores the USGA requires that we post, and what scores we are not permitted to post. The source of these rules is The USGA Handicap System manual, Section 5–Scores. You can access the manual online via the following link:

1. If you play 13 or more holes, post an 18-hole score. For the holes that are not played, record your Par Plus Handicap score.

2. If you play between 7 and 12 holes, post a 9-hole score.

3. Post all scores from every course that has a USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating®, both home and away, during the active season. Don’t forget to record the correct course rating and slope rating when you post “away” scores.

4. Scores made in match play must be posted, even though you pick up when a putt or a hole is conceded. Record your Most Likely Score in those situations.

5. Scores in stroke play competitions must be posted, even though you may have picked up on several holes because your partner had a better score. Each time you pick up, record your Most Likely Score.

6. Record all scores when you are playing under the Rules of Golf (see #3 and #4 below under “Do not post these scores”).

7. If you have been disqualified from a tournament, but you have an acceptable score (“acceptable” means it meets all the above requirements), you must post it. One example might be a player who has been disqualified for not signing his scorecard.

1. You play less than 7 holes.

2. You play during the inactive season.

3. You don’t play your own ball (e.g., scramble, alternate shot, Scotch Chapman).

4. You don’t play according to the Rules of Golf (e.g., you play two balls). Note that if you are playing preferred lies (“winter rules”), you are playing by the Rules and you must post that score.

5. You play an 18-hole course that is less than 3,000 yards, or a 9-hole course that is less than 1,500 yards.

6. You play in a tournament where the number of clubs permitted is less than 14, or the type of club is limited (e.g., irons only).

7. You play on a course that does not have a USGA Course Rating or Slope Rating.

8. You play with a non-conforming club (e.g., a driver longer than 48”), a non-conforming ball (e.g., weighs more than 1.62 ounces), or a non-conforming tee (e.g., longer than 4”).

9. You use an artificial device or unusual equipment to help you make a stroke (e.g., placing a bottle of water on the green to gauge the slope).

The USGA has provided a handicap system that allows golfers of different abilities to have an even competition. The system works properly when every player posts every acceptable score immediately after the round or as soon as possible.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.