Monday, February 17, 2014

Ask Linda #795-Ball embedded in pitch mark

Linda…my question today involves the definition of being embedded in your own pitch mark. During a recent round I came up short of a green with an iron shot. The grass right in front of the green was fairly long and a little damp. I did not see the ball bounce but knew it was just short of the green. Turns out my ball was in the deep grass in front of the green and appeared to be in the original spot in which it came down as it was lying pretty deep in the grass and appeared to be slightly embedded. I consulted my playing partner and he agreed it was in its own pitch mark. However, when I took my drop the ball still nestled down pretty deep in the grass and was not a whole lot better off than the original one was which made me question whether or not I was truly in my pitch mark or just in deep grass. After I picked up my original ball it did appear that it was sitting in a small ball indentation in the ground but being in fairly deep grass it was not obvious that this was the case. Additionally my original ball did not have any mud on it. So, the question is…what is the definition of a pitch mark? In other words, is there a distance that the ball must be below the surface or the ground to consider it to be in its own pitch mark or is the simple agreement of the people playing together good enough? 

Lou from Texas

Dear Lou,

A pitch mark is the indentation a ball makes when it hits the ground. Pitch marks commonly occur on putting greens, but can also occur elsewhere when the ground is soft. A ball is embedded in its own pitch mark when it stays put where it landed, is partially (or sometimes completely) below the level of the ground, and is stuck in the depression. It does not necessarily have to touch the ground to be considered embedded – grass or loose impediments may lie between the ball and the ground [Decision 25-2/0.5 – this Decision includes helpful diagrams].

If your ball did not bounce when it landed, and it is nestled snugly in a depression the exact shape of the bottom of the ball, it is embedded in its own pitch mark. The fact that no mud adheres to the ball does not change this conclusion.

However, there is another issue to consider. In order to take relief under the embedded ball rule, your ball must be embedded in a closely mown area [Rule 25-2]. Long grass does not meet the definition of “closely mown.” Unless the Local Rule is in effect that allows relief for an embedded ball “through the green,” you are not entitled to free relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch mark in long grass.

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