Rule

16

The Rules of Golf
See Player's Edition
Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball
The Rules of Golf
See Player's Edition
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16.1
a
b
c
d
e
f
16.2
a
b
16.3
a
b
16.4
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Rule 15
Rule 17

Purpose: 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.

  • These conditions are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and free relief is generally allowed except in a penalty area.
  • The player normally takes relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief.

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 holes, ground under repair, immovable obstructions or temporary water:

  • These are collectively called abnormal course conditions, but each has a separate Definition.
  • This Rule does not give relief from movable obstructions (a different type of free relief is allowed under Rule 15.2a) or boundary objects or integral objects (no free relief is allowed).
a
When Relief Is Allowed

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

  • The player’s ball touches or is in or on an abnormal course condition,
  • An abnormal course condition physically interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or area of intended swing, or
  • Only when the ball is on the putting green, an abnormal course condition on or off the putting green intervenes on the line of play.

If the abnormal course condition 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 Committee may adopt a Local Rule denying relief from an abnormal course condition that only interferes with the area of intended stance).

(2) Relief Allowed Anywhere on Course Except When Ball Is in Penalty Area. Relief from interference by an abnormal course condition is allowed under Rule 16.1 only when both:

  • The abnormal course condition is on the course (not out of bounds), and
  • The ball is anywhere on the course, except in a penalty area (where the player’s only relief is under Rule 17).

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

  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than an abnormal course condition (such as, when a player is standing in temporary water or on an immovable obstruction but is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because a player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-23 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule allowing free relief from interference by temporary immovable obstructions on or off the course).

b
Relief for Ball in General Area

If a player’s ball is in the general area and there is interference by an abnormal course condition on the course, 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 nearest point of complete relief in the general area.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must be in the general area,
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
    • There must be complete relief from all interference by the abnormal course condition.
c
Relief for Ball in Bunker

If a player’s ball is in a bunker and there is interference by an abnormal course condition on the course, 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:

  • The nearest point of complete relief and the relief area must be in the bunker.
  • If there is no such nearest point of complete relief in the bunker, the player may still take this relief by using the point of maximum available relief in the bunker as the reference point.

(2) Penalty Relief: Playing from Outside Bunker (Back-On-the-Line Relief). For one penalty stroke, the player may drop the original ball or another ball (see Rule 14.3) in a relief area that is based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball:

  • Reference Point: A point on the course chosen by the player that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than that original spot (with no limit on how far back on the line):
    • In choosing this reference point, the player should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
    • If the player drops the ball without having chosen this point, the reference point is treated as being the point on the line that is the same distance from the hole as where the dropped ball first touched the ground.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
    • May be in any area of the course, but
    • If more than one area of the course is located within one club-length of the reference point, the ball must come to rest in the relief area in the same area of the course that the ball first touched when dropped in the relief area.
d
Relief for Ball on Putting Green

If a player’s ball is on the putting green and there is interference by an abnormal course condition on the course, the player may take free relief by placing the original ball or another ball on the spot of the nearest point of complete relief, using the procedures for replacing a ball under Rules 14.2b(2) and 14.2e.

  • The nearest point of complete relief must be either on the putting green or in the general area.
  • If there is no such nearest point of complete relief, the player may still take this free relief by using the point of maximum available relief as the reference point, which must be either on the putting green or in the general area.
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 certain that the ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course condition on the course, the player may use this relief option instead of taking stroke-and-distance relief:

  • The player may take relief under Rule 16.1b, c or d, using the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the abnormal course condition on the course as the spot of the ball for purposes of finding the nearest point of complete relief.
  • Once the player puts another ball in play to take relief in this way:
    • The original ball is no longer in play and must not be played.
    • This is true even if it is then found on the course before the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).

But if it is not known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course condition and the ball is lost, the player must take stroke-and-distance 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 zone in or on an abnormal course condition in the general area, in a bunker or on the putting green:

  • 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 zone and is in the general area, in a bunker or on the putting green, and a no play zone (whether in an abnormal course condition or in a penalty area) interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or area of intended swing, the player must either:

  • Take relief if allowed under Rule 16.1b, c or d, depending on whether the ball is in the general area, in a bunker or on the putting green, or
  • Take unplayable ball relief under Rule 19.

For what to do when there is interference by a no play zone for a ball in a penalty area, see Rule 17.1e.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.1: General Penalty under Rule 14.7a.

16.2
Dangerous Animal Condition
a
When Relief Is Allowed

A “dangerous animal condition” exists when a dangerous animal (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 animal condition no matter where his or her ball is on the course, except that relief is not allowed:

  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than the dangerous animal condition (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because the player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.
b
Relief For Dangerous Animal Condition

When there is interference by a dangerous animal 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 area, in a bunker or on the putting green.

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

  • Free Relief: Playing from Inside Penalty Area. The player may take free relief under Rule 16.1b, except that the nearest point of complete relief and the relief area must be in the penalty area.
  • Penalty Relief: Playing from Outside Penalty Area.
    • The player may take penalty relief under Rule 17.1d.
    • If there is interference by a dangerous animal condition where the ball would be played after taking this penalty relief outside the penalty area, the player may take further relief under (1) without additional penalty.

For purposes of this Rule, the nearest point of complete relief means the nearest point (not nearer the hole) where the dangerous animal condition does not exist.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.2: General Penalty 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 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 Embedded. A 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.
b
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-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must be in the general area, and
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-2 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule allowing relief only for a ball embedded in an area cut to fairway height or less).

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

  • 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).

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.

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

Animal 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).

The term animal hole includes:

  • The loose material the animal dug out of the hole, 
  • Any worn-down track or trail leading into the hole, and
  • Any area on the ground pushed up or altered as a result of the animal digging the hole underground.

 

Interpretation Animal Hole/1 - Isolated Animal Footprint or Hoof Mark Is Not Animal Hole

An isolated animal footprint that is not leading into an animal hole is not a hole made by an animal but rather is an irregularity of the surface from which relief without penalty is not allowed. However, when such damage is on the putting green, it may be repaired (Rule 13.1c(2) - Improvements Allowed on Putting Green).

Ground 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:

  • All ground inside the edge of the defined area, and
  • Any grass, bush, tree or other growing or attached natural object rooted in the defined area, including any part of those objects that extends up above the ground outside the edge of the defined area, but not any part (such as a tree root) that is attached to or below the ground outside the edge of the defined area.

Ground under repair also includes the following things, even if the Committee does not define them as such:

  • Any hole made by the Committee or the maintenance staff in:
    • Setting up the course (such as a hole where a stake has been removed or the hole on a double green being used for the play of another hole), or
    • Maintaining the course (such as a hole made in removing turf or a tree stump or laying pipelines, but not including aeration holes).
  • Grass cuttings, leaves and any other material piled for later removal. But:
    • Any natural materials that are piled for removal are also loose impediments, and
    • Any materials left on the course that are not intended to be removed are not ground under repair unless the Committee has defined them as such.
  • Any animal habitat (such as a bird’s nest) that is so near a player’s ball that the player’s stroke or stance might damage it, except when the habitat has been made by animals that are defined as loose impediments (such as worms or insects).

The edge of ground under repair should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the ground under repair is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the ground under repair.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the ground under repair is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the ground under repair.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a flower bed or a turf nursery), the Committee should say how the edge of the ground under repair is defined.

When the edge of ground under repair is defined by lines or physical features, stakes may be used to show where the ground under repair is, but they have no other meaning.

 

Interpretation Ground Under Repair/1 - Damage Caused by Committee or Maintenance Staff Is Not Always Ground Under Repair

A hole made by maintenance staff is ground under repair even when not marked as ground under repair. However, not all damage caused by maintenance staff is ground under repair by default.

Examples of damage that is not ground under repair by default include:

  • A rut made by a tractor (but the Committee is justified in declaring a deep rut to be ground under repair).
  • An old hole plug that is sunk below the putting green surface, but see Rule 13.1c (Improvements Allowed on Putting Green).

Interpretation Ground Under Repair/2 - Ball in Tree Rooted in Ground Under Repair Is in Ground Under Repair

If a tree is rooted in ground under repair and a player's ball is in a branch of that tree, the ball is in ground under repair even if the branch extends outside the defined area.

If the player decides to take free relief under Rule 16.1 and the spot on the ground directly under where the ball lies in the tree is outside the ground under repair, the reference point for determining the relief area and taking relief is that spot on the ground.

Interpretation Ground Under Repair/3 - Fallen Tree or Tree Stump Is Not Always Ground Under Repair

A fallen tree or tree stump that the Committee intends to remove, but is not in the process of being removed, is not automatically ground under repair. However, if the tree and the tree stump are in the process of being unearthed or cut up for later removal, they are "material piled for later removal" and therefore ground under repair.

For example, a tree that has fallen in the general area and is still attached to the stump is not ground under repair. However, a player could request relief from the Committee and the Committee would be justified in declaring the area covered by the fallen tree to be ground under repair.

Immovable Obstruction

Any obstruction that:

  • Cannot be moved without unreasonable effort or without damaging the obstruction or the course, and
  • Otherwise does not meet the definition of a movable obstruction.

The Committee may define any obstruction to be an immovable obstruction, even if it meets the definition of movable obstruction.

 

Interpretation Immovable Obstruction/1 - Turf Around Obstruction Is Not Part of Obstruction

Any turf that is leading to an immovable obstruction or covering an immovable obstruction, is not part of the obstruction.

For example, a water pipe is partly underground and partly above ground. If the pipe that is underground causes the turf to be raised, the raised turf is not part of the immovable obstruction.

Temporary 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:

  • Is not in a penalty area, and
  • Can be seen before or after the player takes a stance (without pressing down excessively with his or her feet).

It is not enough for the ground to be merely wet, muddy or soft or for the water to be momentarily visible as the player steps on the ground; an accumulation of water must remain present either before or after the stance is taken.

Special cases:

  • Dew and Frost are not temporary water.
  • Snow and Natural Ice (other than frost), are either loose impediments or, when on the ground, temporary water, at the player’s option.
  • Manufactured Ice is an obstruction.
Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Movable Obstruction

An obstruction that can be moved with reasonable effort and without damaging the obstruction or the course.

If part of an immovable obstruction or integral object (such as a gate or door or part of an attached cable) meets these two standards, that part is treated as a movable obstruction.

But this does not apply if the movable part of an immovable obstruction or integral object is not meant to be moved (such as a loose stone that is part of a stone wall).

Even when an obstruction is movable, the Committee may define it to be an immovable obstruction.

 

Interpretation Movable Obstruction/1 - Abandoned Ball Is a Movable Obstruction

An abandoned ball is a movable obstruction.

Boundary Object

Artificial objects defining or showing out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings, from which free relief is not allowed.

This includes any base and post of a boundary fence, but does not include:

  • Angled supports or guy wires that are attached to a wall or fence, or
  • Any steps, bridge or similar construction used for getting over the wall or fence.

Boundary objects are treated as immovable even if they are movable or any part of them is movable (see Rule 8.1a).

Boundary objects are not obstructions or integral objects.

 

Interpretation Boundary Object/1 – Status of Attachments to Boundary Object

Objects that are attached to a boundary object, but are not part of that boundary object, are obstructions and a player may be allowed free relief from them.

If the Committee does not wish to provide free relief from an obstruction attached to a boundary object, it may introduce a Local Rule providing that the obstruction is an integral object, in which case it loses its status as an obstruction and free relief is not allowed.

For example, if angled supports are so close to a boundary fence that leaving the supports as obstructions would essentially give players free relief from the boundary object, the Committee may choose to define the supports to be integral objects.

Interpretation Boundary Object/2 - Status of Gate Attached to Boundary Object

A gate for getting through a boundary wall or fence is not part of the boundary object. Such a gate is an obstruction unless the Committee chooses to define it as an integral object.

Interpretation Boundary Object/3 - Movable Boundary Object or Movable Part of Boundary Object Must Not Be Moved

Boundary objects are treated as immovable, even if part of the object is designed to be movable. To ensure a consistent approach, this applies to all boundary objects.

An example of how a movable boundary object may come into play during a round includes when a boundary stake interferes with a player's stance so he or she pulls the stake out of the ground (a breach of Rule 8.1a), but part of it breaks during removal. If the player realizes the mistake before making the next stroke, he or she may restore the improved conditions by replacing enough of the broken boundary stake to restore the interference to what it was before the stake was removed.

But if the improvement cannot be eliminated (such as when a boundary object has been bent or broken in such a way that the improvement cannot be eliminated), the player cannot avoid penalty.

Integral Object

An artificial object defined by the Committee as part of the challenge of playing the course from which free relief is not allowed.

Integral objects are treated as immovable (see Rule 8.1a). But if part of an integral object (such as a gate or door or part of an attached cable) meets the definition of movable obstruction, that part is treated as a movable obstruction.

Artificial objects defined by the Committee as integral objects are not obstructions or boundary objects.

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Stance

The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke.

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

Line of Play

The line where the player intends his or her ball to go after a stroke, including the area on that line that is a reasonable distance up above the ground and on either side of that line.

The line of play is not necessarily a straight line between two points (for example, it may be a curved line based on where the player intends the ball to go).

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Committee

The person or group in charge of the competition or the course.

See Committee Procedures, Section 1 (explaining the role of the Committee).

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Stance

The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke.

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Out of Bounds

All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds.

The boundary edge of the course extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the boundary edge is in bounds, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the boundary edge (such as steps attached to a boundary fence, or a tree rooted outside the edge with branches extending inside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is outside the edge is out of bounds.

The boundary edge should be defined by boundary objects or lines:

  • Boundary objects: When defined by stakes or a fence, the boundary edge is defined by the line between the course-side points of the stakes or fence posts at ground level (excluding angled supports), and those stakes or fence posts are out of bounds.
    When defined by other objects such as a wall or when the Committee wishes to treat a boundary fence in a different way, the Committee should define the boundary edge.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the boundary edge is the course-side edge of the line, and the line itself is out of bounds.
    When a line on the ground defines the boundary edge, stakes may be used to show where the boundary edge is, but they have no other meaning.

Boundary stakes or lines should be white.

Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Temporary 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:

  • Is not in a penalty area, and
  • Can be seen before or after the player takes a stance (without pressing down excessively with his or her feet).

It is not enough for the ground to be merely wet, muddy or soft or for the water to be momentarily visible as the player steps on the ground; an accumulation of water must remain present either before or after the stance is taken.

Special cases:

  • Dew and Frost are not temporary water.
  • Snow and Natural Ice (other than frost), are either loose impediments or, when on the ground, temporary water, at the player’s option.
  • Manufactured Ice is an obstruction.
Immovable Obstruction

Any obstruction that:

  • Cannot be moved without unreasonable effort or without damaging the obstruction or the course, and
  • Otherwise does not meet the definition of a movable obstruction.

The Committee may define any obstruction to be an immovable obstruction, even if it meets the definition of movable obstruction.

 

Interpretation Immovable Obstruction/1 - Turf Around Obstruction Is Not Part of Obstruction

Any turf that is leading to an immovable obstruction or covering an immovable obstruction, is not part of the obstruction.

For example, a water pipe is partly underground and partly above ground. If the pipe that is underground causes the turf to be raised, the raised turf is not part of the immovable obstruction.

Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Stance

The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke.

Committee

The person or group in charge of the competition or the course.

See Committee Procedures, Section 1 (explaining the role of the Committee).

Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Drop

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.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief 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:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Nearest 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.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

 

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 - Diagrams Illustrating Nearest Point of Complete Relief

In the diagrams, the term "nearest point of complete relief" in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.

The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 - Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 - Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Nearest 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.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

 

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 - Diagrams Illustrating Nearest Point of Complete Relief

In the diagrams, the term "nearest point of complete relief" in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.

The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 - Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 - Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

Relief 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:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Nearest 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.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

 

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 - Diagrams Illustrating Nearest Point of Complete Relief

In the diagrams, the term "nearest point of complete relief" in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.

The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 - Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 - Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Point of Maximum Available Relief

The reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition in a bunker (Rule 16.1c) or on the putting green (Rule 16.1d) when there is no nearest point of complete relief.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where that abnormal course condition least interferes with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play the player would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The point of maximum available relief is found by comparing the relative amount of interference with the lie of the ball and the player’s area of intended stance and swing and, on the putting green only, the line of play. For example, when taking relief from temporary water:

  • The point of maximum available relief may be where the ball will be in shallower water than where the player will stand (affecting the stance more than the lie and swing), or where the ball is in deeper water than where the player will stand (affecting the lie and swing more than the stance).
  • On the putting green, the point of maximum available relief may be based on the line of play where the ball will need to go through the shallowest or shortest stretch of temporary water.
Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Drop

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.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief 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:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Tee

An object used to raise a ball above the ground to play it from the teeing area. It must be no longer than four inches (101.6 mm) and conform with the Equipment Rules.

Drop

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.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Drop

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.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

Relief 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:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Drop

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.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief 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:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Nearest 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.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

 

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 - Diagrams Illustrating Nearest Point of Complete Relief

In the diagrams, the term "nearest point of complete relief" in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.

The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 - Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 - Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

Replace

To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play.

If the player sets a ball down without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been replaced and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Whenever a Rule requires a ball to be replaced, the Rule identifies a specific spot where the ball must be replaced.

 

Interpretation Replace/1 - Ball May Not Be Replaced with a Club

For a ball to be replaced in a right way, it must be set down and let go. This means the player must use his or her hand to put the ball back in play on the spot it was lifted or moved from.

For example, if a player lifts his or her ball from the putting green and sets it aside, the player must not replace the ball by rolling it to the required spot with a club. If he or she does so, the ball is not replaced in the right way and the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 14.2b(2) (How Ball Must Be Replaced) if the mistake is not corrected before the stroke is made.

Nearest 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.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

 

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 - Diagrams Illustrating Nearest Point of Complete Relief

In the diagrams, the term "nearest point of complete relief" in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.

The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 - Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 - Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Nearest 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.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

 

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 - Diagrams Illustrating Nearest Point of Complete Relief

In the diagrams, the term "nearest point of complete relief" in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.

The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 - Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 - Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

Point of Maximum Available Relief

The reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition in a bunker (Rule 16.1c) or on the putting green (Rule 16.1d) when there is no nearest point of complete relief.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where that abnormal course condition least interferes with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play the player would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The point of maximum available relief is found by comparing the relative amount of interference with the lie of the ball and the player’s area of intended stance and swing and, on the putting green only, the line of play. For example, when taking relief from temporary water:

  • The point of maximum available relief may be where the ball will be in shallower water than where the player will stand (affecting the stance more than the lie and swing), or where the ball is in deeper water than where the player will stand (affecting the lie and swing more than the stance).
  • On the putting green, the point of maximum available relief may be based on the line of play where the ball will need to go through the shallowest or shortest stretch of temporary water.
Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Known 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.

Known or virtually certain means more than just possible or probable. It means that either:

  • There is conclusive evidence that the event in question happened to the player's ball, such as when the player or other witnesses saw it happen, or
  • Although there is a very small degree of doubt, all reasonably available information shows that it is at least 95% likely that the event in question happened.

"All reasonably available information" includes all information the player knows and all other information he or she can get with reasonable effort and without unreasonable delay.

 

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/1 - Applying "Known or Virtually Certain" Standard When Ball Moves

When it is not "known" what caused the ball to move, all reasonably available information must be considered and the evidence must be evaluated to determine if it is "virtually certain" that the player, opponent or outside influence caused the ball to move.

Depending on the circumstances, reasonably available information may include, but is not limited to:

  • The effect of any actions taken near the ball (such as movement of loose impediments, practice swings, grounding club and taking a stance),
  • Time elapsed between such actions and the movement of the ball,
  • The lie of the ball before it moved (such as on a fairway, perched on longer grass, on a surface imperfection or on the putting green),
  • The conditions of the ground near the ball (such as the degree of slope or presence of surface irregularities, etc), and
  • Wind speed and direction, rain and other weather conditions.

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/2 - Virtual Certainty Is Irrelevant if It Comes to Light After Three-Minute Search Expires

Determining whether there is knowledge or virtual certainty must be based on evidence known to the player at the time the three-minute search time expires.

Examples of when the player's later findings are irrelevant include when:

  • A player's tee shot comes to rest in an area containing heavy rough and a large animal hole. After a three-minute search, it is determined that it is not known or virtually certain that the ball is in the animal hole. As the player returns to the teeing area, the ball is found in the animal hole.
  • Even though the player has not yet put another ball in play, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b - What to Do When Ball is Lost or Out of Bounds) since it was not known or virtually certain that the ball was in the animal hole, when the search time expired.
  • A player cannot find his or her ball and believes it may have been picked up by a spectator (outside influence), but there is not enough evidence to be virtually certain of this. A short time after the three-minute search time expires, a spectator is found to have the player's ball.

The player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b) since the movement by the outside influence only became known after the search time expired.

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/3 - Player Unaware Ball Played by Another Player

It must be known or virtually certain that a player's ball has been played by another player as a wrong ball to treat it as being moved.

For example, in stroke play, Player A and Player B hit their tee shots into the same general location. Player A finds a ball and plays it. Player B goes forward to look for his or her ball and cannot find it. After three minutes, Player B starts back to the tee to play another ball. On the way, Player B finds Player A's ball and knows then that Player A has played his or her ball in error.

Player A gets the general penalty for playing a wrong ball and must then play his or her own ball (Rule 6.3c). Player A's ball was not lost even though both players searched for more than three minutes because Player A did not start searching for his or her ball; the searching was for Player B's ball. Regarding Player B's ball, Player B's original ball was lost and he or she must put another ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b), because it was not known or virtually certain when the three-minute search time expired that the ball had been played by another player.

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Stroke 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).

The term stroke and distance means that the player both:

  • Gets one penalty stroke, and
  • Loses the benefit of any gain of distance towards the hole from the spot where the previous stroke was made.
Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Nearest 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.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

 

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 - Diagrams Illustrating Nearest Point of Complete Relief

In the diagrams, the term "nearest point of complete relief" in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.

The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 - Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 - Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

In Play

The status of a player’s ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole:

  • A ball first becomes in play on a hole:
    • When the player makes a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
    • In match play, when the player makes a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and the opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.
  • That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:
    • When it is lifted from the course,
    • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
    • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

A ball that is not in play is a wrong ball.

The player cannot have more than one ball in play at any time. (See Rule 6.3d for the limited cases when a player may play more than one ball at the same time on a hole.)

When the Rules refer to a ball at rest or in motion, this means a ball that is in play.

When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of a ball in play:

  • If the ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
  • If the ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.
In Play

The status of a player’s ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole:

  • A ball first becomes in play on a hole:
    • When the player makes a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
    • In match play, when the player makes a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and the opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.
  • That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:
    • When it is lifted from the course,
    • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
    • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

A ball that is not in play is a wrong ball.

The player cannot have more than one ball in play at any time. (See Rule 6.3d for the limited cases when a player may play more than one ball at the same time on a hole.)

When the Rules refer to a ball at rest or in motion, this means a ball that is in play.

When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of a ball in play:

  • If the ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
  • If the ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Known 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.

Known or virtually certain means more than just possible or probable. It means that either:

  • There is conclusive evidence that the event in question happened to the player's ball, such as when the player or other witnesses saw it happen, or
  • Although there is a very small degree of doubt, all reasonably available information shows that it is at least 95% likely that the event in question happened.

"All reasonably available information" includes all information the player knows and all other information he or she can get with reasonable effort and without unreasonable delay.

 

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/1 - Applying "Known or Virtually Certain" Standard When Ball Moves

When it is not "known" what caused the ball to move, all reasonably available information must be considered and the evidence must be evaluated to determine if it is "virtually certain" that the player, opponent or outside influence caused the ball to move.

Depending on the circumstances, reasonably available information may include, but is not limited to:

  • The effect of any actions taken near the ball (such as movement of loose impediments, practice swings, grounding club and taking a stance),
  • Time elapsed between such actions and the movement of the ball,
  • The lie of the ball before it moved (such as on a fairway, perched on longer grass, on a surface imperfection or on the putting green),
  • The conditions of the ground near the ball (such as the degree of slope or presence of surface irregularities, etc), and
  • Wind speed and direction, rain and other weather conditions.

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/2 - Virtual Certainty Is Irrelevant if It Comes to Light After Three-Minute Search Expires

Determining whether there is knowledge or virtual certainty must be based on evidence known to the player at the time the three-minute search time expires.

Examples of when the player's later findings are irrelevant include when:

  • A player's tee shot comes to rest in an area containing heavy rough and a large animal hole. After a three-minute search, it is determined that it is not known or virtually certain that the ball is in the animal hole. As the player returns to the teeing area, the ball is found in the animal hole.
  • Even though the player has not yet put another ball in play, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b - What to Do When Ball is Lost or Out of Bounds) since it was not known or virtually certain that the ball was in the animal hole, when the search time expired.
  • A player cannot find his or her ball and believes it may have been picked up by a spectator (outside influence), but there is not enough evidence to be virtually certain of this. A short time after the three-minute search time expires, a spectator is found to have the player's ball.

The player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b) since the movement by the outside influence only became known after the search time expired.

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/3 - Player Unaware Ball Played by Another Player

It must be known or virtually certain that a player's ball has been played by another player as a wrong ball to treat it as being moved.

For example, in stroke play, Player A and Player B hit their tee shots into the same general location. Player A finds a ball and plays it. Player B goes forward to look for his or her ball and cannot find it. After three minutes, Player B starts back to the tee to play another ball. On the way, Player B finds Player A's ball and knows then that Player A has played his or her ball in error.

Player A gets the general penalty for playing a wrong ball and must then play his or her own ball (Rule 6.3c). Player A's ball was not lost even though both players searched for more than three minutes because Player A did not start searching for his or her ball; the searching was for Player B's ball. Regarding Player B's ball, Player B's original ball was lost and he or she must put another ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b), because it was not known or virtually certain when the three-minute search time expired that the ball had been played by another player.

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Lost

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’s caddie) begins to search for it.

If the search begins and is then temporarily interrupted for a good reason (such as when the player stops searching when play is suspended or needs to stand aside to wait for another player to play) or when the player has mistakenly identified a wrong ball:

  • The time between the interruption and when the search resumes does not count, and
  • The time allowed for search is three minutes in total, counting the search time both before the interruption and after the search resumes.

 

Interpretation Lost/1 - Ball May Not Be Declared Lost

A player may not make a ball lost by a declaration. A ball is lost only when it has not been found within three minutes after the player or his or her caddie or partner begins to search for it.

For example, a player searches for his or her ball for two minutes, declares it lost and walks back to play another ball. Before the player puts another ball in play, the original ball is found within the three-minute search time. Since the player may not declare his or her ball lost, the original ball remains in play.

Interpretation Lost/2 - Player May Not Delay the Start of Search to Gain an Advantage

The three-minute search time for a ball starts when the player or his or her caddie (or the player's partner or partner's caddie) starts to search for it. The player may not delay the start of the search in order to gain an advantage by allowing other people to search on his or her behalf.

For example, if a player is walking towards his or her ball and spectators are already looking for the ball, the player cannot deliberately delay getting to the area to keep the three-minute search time from starting. In such circumstances, the search time starts when the player would have been in a position to search had he or she not deliberately delayed getting to the area.

Interpretation Lost/3 - Search Time Continues When Player Returns to Play a Provisional Ball

If a player has started to search for his or her ball and is returning to the spot of the previous stroke to play a provisional ball, the three-minute search time continues whether or not anyone continues to search for the player's ball.

Interpretation Lost/4 - Search Time When Searching for Two Balls

When a player has played two balls (such as the ball in play and a provisional ball) and is searching for both, whether the player is allowed two separate three-minute search times depends how close the balls are to each other.

If the balls are in the same area where they can be searched for at the same time, the player is allowed only three minutes to search for both balls. However, if the balls are in different areas (such as opposite sides of the fairway) the player is allowed a three-minute search time for each ball.

Stroke 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).

The term stroke and distance means that the player both:

  • Gets one penalty stroke, and
  • Loses the benefit of any gain of distance towards the hole from the spot where the previous stroke was made.
No 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.

The Committee may use no play zones for any reason, such as:

  • Protecting wildlife, animal habitats, and environmentally sensitive areas,
  • Preventing damage to young trees, flower beds, turf nurseries, re-turfed areas or other planted areas,
  • Protecting players from danger, and
  • Preserving sites of historical or cultural interest.

The Committee should define the edge of a no play zone with a line or stakes, and the line or stakes (or the tops of those stakes) should identify the no play zone as different than a regular abnormal course condition or penalty area that does not contain a no play zone.

 

Interpretation No Play Zone/1 - Status of Growing Things Overhanging a No Play Zone

The status of growing things that overhang a no play zone depends on the type of no play zone. This will matter since the growing things may be part of the no play zone, in which case the player is required to take relief.

For example, if a no play zone has been defined as a penalty area (where the edges extend above and below the ground), any part of a growing object that extends beyond the edges of the no play zone is not part of the no play zone. However, if a no play zone has been defined as ground under repair (which includes all ground inside the defined area and anything growing that extends above the ground and outside the edges), anything overhanging the edge is part of the no play zone.

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

No 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.

The Committee may use no play zones for any reason, such as:

  • Protecting wildlife, animal habitats, and environmentally sensitive areas,
  • Preventing damage to young trees, flower beds, turf nurseries, re-turfed areas or other planted areas,
  • Protecting players from danger, and
  • Preserving sites of historical or cultural interest.

The Committee should define the edge of a no play zone with a line or stakes, and the line or stakes (or the tops of those stakes) should identify the no play zone as different than a regular abnormal course condition or penalty area that does not contain a no play zone.

 

Interpretation No Play Zone/1 - Status of Growing Things Overhanging a No Play Zone

The status of growing things that overhang a no play zone depends on the type of no play zone. This will matter since the growing things may be part of the no play zone, in which case the player is required to take relief.

For example, if a no play zone has been defined as a penalty area (where the edges extend above and below the ground), any part of a growing object that extends beyond the edges of the no play zone is not part of the no play zone. However, if a no play zone has been defined as ground under repair (which includes all ground inside the defined area and anything growing that extends above the ground and outside the edges), anything overhanging the edge is part of the no play zone.

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

No 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.

The Committee may use no play zones for any reason, such as:

  • Protecting wildlife, animal habitats, and environmentally sensitive areas,
  • Preventing damage to young trees, flower beds, turf nurseries, re-turfed areas or other planted areas,
  • Protecting players from danger, and
  • Preserving sites of historical or cultural interest.

The Committee should define the edge of a no play zone with a line or stakes, and the line or stakes (or the tops of those stakes) should identify the no play zone as different than a regular abnormal course condition or penalty area that does not contain a no play zone.

 

Interpretation No Play Zone/1 - Status of Growing Things Overhanging a No Play Zone

The status of growing things that overhang a no play zone depends on the type of no play zone. This will matter since the growing things may be part of the no play zone, in which case the player is required to take relief.

For example, if a no play zone has been defined as a penalty area (where the edges extend above and below the ground), any part of a growing object that extends beyond the edges of the no play zone is not part of the no play zone. However, if a no play zone has been defined as ground under repair (which includes all ground inside the defined area and anything growing that extends above the ground and outside the edges), anything overhanging the edge is part of the no play zone.

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Stance

The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke.

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

No 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.

The Committee may use no play zones for any reason, such as:

  • Protecting wildlife, animal habitats, and environmentally sensitive areas,
  • Preventing damage to young trees, flower beds, turf nurseries, re-turfed areas or other planted areas,
  • Protecting players from danger, and
  • Preserving sites of historical or cultural interest.

The Committee should define the edge of a no play zone with a line or stakes, and the line or stakes (or the tops of those stakes) should identify the no play zone as different than a regular abnormal course condition or penalty area that does not contain a no play zone.

 

Interpretation No Play Zone/1 - Status of Growing Things Overhanging a No Play Zone

The status of growing things that overhang a no play zone depends on the type of no play zone. This will matter since the growing things may be part of the no play zone, in which case the player is required to take relief.

For example, if a no play zone has been defined as a penalty area (where the edges extend above and below the ground), any part of a growing object that extends beyond the edges of the no play zone is not part of the no play zone. However, if a no play zone has been defined as ground under repair (which includes all ground inside the defined area and anything growing that extends above the ground and outside the edges), anything overhanging the edge is part of the no play zone.

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

General Penalty

Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.

Animal

Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).

Animal

Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).

Animal

Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).

Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Animal

Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).

Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Stance

The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke.

Animal

Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

Nearest 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.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

 

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 - Diagrams Illustrating Nearest Point of Complete Relief

In the diagrams, the term "nearest point of complete relief" in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.

The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 - Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 - Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

Relief 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:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Animal

Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Nearest 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.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.

The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).

The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

 

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 - Diagrams Illustrating Nearest Point of Complete Relief

In the diagrams, the term "nearest point of complete relief" in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.

The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 - Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

Interpretation Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 - Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Animal

Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).

Wrong Place

Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules.

Examples of playing from a wrong place are:

  • Playing a ball after replacing it on the wrong spot or without replacing it when required by the Rules.
  • Playing a dropped ball from outside the required relief area.
  • Taking relief under a wrong Rule, so that the ball is dropped in and played from a place not allowed under the Rules.
  • Playing a ball from a no play zone or when a no play zone interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or swing.

Playing a ball from outside the teeing area in starting play of a hole or in trying to correct that mistake is not playing from a wrong place (see Rule 6.1b).

General Penalty

Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.

Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

Mark

To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either:

  • Placing a ball-marker right behind or right next to the ball, or
  • Holding a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball.

This is done to show the spot where the ball must be replaced after it is lifted.

Replace

To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play.

If the player sets a ball down without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been replaced and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Whenever a Rule requires a ball to be replaced, the Rule identifies a specific spot where the ball must be replaced.

 

Interpretation Replace/1 - Ball May Not Be Replaced with a Club

For a ball to be replaced in a right way, it must be set down and let go. This means the player must use his or her hand to put the ball back in play on the spot it was lifted or moved from.

For example, if a player lifts his or her ball from the putting green and sets it aside, the player must not replace the ball by rolling it to the required spot with a club. If he or she does so, the ball is not replaced in the right way and the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 14.2b(2) (How Ball Must Be Replaced) if the mistake is not corrected before the stroke is made.

Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Drop

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.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Drop

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.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief 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:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except 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.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.
Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Committee

The person or group in charge of the competition or the course.

See Committee Procedures, Section 1 (explaining the role of the Committee).

Embedded

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.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

Wrong Place

Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules.

Examples of playing from a wrong place are:

  • Playing a ball after replacing it on the wrong spot or without replacing it when required by the Rules.
  • Playing a dropped ball from outside the required relief area.
  • Taking relief under a wrong Rule, so that the ball is dropped in and played from a place not allowed under the Rules.
  • Playing a ball from a no play zone or when a no play zone interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or swing.

Playing a ball from outside the teeing area in starting play of a hole or in trying to correct that mistake is not playing from a wrong place (see Rule 6.1b).

General Penalty

Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.

Mark

To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either:

  • Placing a ball-marker right behind or right next to the ball, or
  • Holding a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball.

This is done to show the spot where the ball must be replaced after it is lifted.

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.

The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).

If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.

But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

Mark

To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either:

  • Placing a ball-marker right behind or right next to the ball, or
  • Holding a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball.

This is done to show the spot where the ball must be replaced after it is lifted.

Mark

To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either:

  • Placing a ball-marker right behind or right next to the ball, or
  • Holding a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball.

This is done to show the spot where the ball must be replaced after it is lifted.

Replace

To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play.

If the player sets a ball down without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been replaced and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Whenever a Rule requires a ball to be replaced, the Rule identifies a specific spot where the ball must be replaced.

 

Interpretation Replace/1 - Ball May Not Be Replaced with a Club

For a ball to be replaced in a right way, it must be set down and let go. This means the player must use his or her hand to put the ball back in play on the spot it was lifted or moved from.

For example, if a player lifts his or her ball from the putting green and sets it aside, the player must not replace the ball by rolling it to the required spot with a club. If he or she does so, the ball is not replaced in the right way and the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 14.2b(2) (How Ball Must Be Replaced) if the mistake is not corrected before the stroke is made.

Substitute

To change the ball the player is using to play a hole by having another ball become the ball in play.

The player has substituted another ball when he or she puts that ball in play in any way (see Rule 14.4) instead of the player’s original ball, whether the original ball was:

  • In play, or
  • No longer in play because it had been lifted from the course or was lost or out of bounds.

A substituted ball is the player’s ball in play even if:

  • It was replaced, dropped or placed in a wrong way or wrong place, or
  • The player was required under the Rules to put the original ball back in play rather than to substitute another ball.
Wrong Place

Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules.

Examples of playing from a wrong place are:

  • Playing a ball after replacing it on the wrong spot or without replacing it when required by the Rules.
  • Playing a dropped ball from outside the required relief area.
  • Taking relief under a wrong Rule, so that the ball is dropped in and played from a place not allowed under the Rules.
  • Playing a ball from a no play zone or when a no play zone interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or swing.

Playing a ball from outside the teeing area in starting play of a hole or in trying to correct that mistake is not playing from a wrong place (see Rule 6.1b).

General Penalty

Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.