Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ask Linda #992-Relief from burrowing animal hole

Dear Linda,
In a recent competition my playing partner found his ball in an animal scrape; added to that, the path forward to the green was obstructed by a tree. The player would have to play out sideways. The animal scrape is at the bottom of the tree, which lies between the green and the ball.

If (in normal circumstances) he could take relief (no penalty) to the side of the scrape, he would have no obstruction advancing the ball towards the hole.

I have previously been advised that no relief is applicable because the tree is the main obstruction, NOT the animal scrape.
Is this correct?

Kind regards
Lou from the UK

Dear Lou,

I assume an animal “scrape” is a hole made by a burrowing animal. Such a hole meets the Definition of “Abnormal Ground Conditions.”

Players are entitled to free relief from Abnormal Ground Conditions under Rule 25. After dropping the ball, if the tree is no longer in the player’s way, that is his good fortune.

Whoever advised you that you are not entitled to free relief because the tree is the main obstacle is incorrect. When your ball is lying in an animal hole, that hole is interfering with your stroke. The fact that a tree intervenes on your line of play to the hole has no relevance. The tree is not interfering with your ability to hit the ball; it is merely blocking your path to the hole and dictating a sideways shot. This is hardly unusual on a golf course.

However, the ruling would change if the situation were somewhat reversed: If the ball were lying unplayable in the roots of a tree, and an animal hole interfered with your stance, you could not claim relief from the animal hole, since the roots would be responsible for your ball being unplayable.

I would highly recommend that you read Decisions 25-1b/19, /20, /21, and /22, which will help you understand the types of interference that entitle you to relief.

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