Print section
16
Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball
Purpose: Rule 16 covers when and how you may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when you have interference by an abnormal course condition or a dangerous animal condition.
  • These conditions are not treated as part of your challenge of playing the course, and you are generally allowed free relief except in a penalty area.
  • You normally take relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief.
This Rule also covers free relief when your ball is embedded in its own pitch mark in the general area.
16
Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball
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.
a

When Relief Is Allowed

Interference exists when any one of these is true:
  • Your ball touches or is in or on an abnormal course condition,
  • An abnormal course condition physically interferes with your area of intended stance or area of intended swing, or
  • Only when your ball is on the putting green, an abnormal course condition on or off the putting green intervenes on your line of play.
There is no free relief from an abnormal course condition when the abnormal course condition is out of bounds or your ball is in a penalty area. No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Your Ball. There is no relief:
  • When playing your ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than an abnormal course condition (such as, when you are standing on an immovable obstruction but you are unable to make a stroke because of where your ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because you choose a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.
b

Relief for Ball in General Area

If your ball is in the general area and there is interference by an abnormal course condition on the course, you may take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball as shown in Diagram 16.1b. Free relief is allowed when the ball is in the general area and there is interference by an abnormal course condition. The nearest point of complete relief should be identified and a ball must be dropped in and come to rest in the relief area. Reference Point: The nearest point of complete relief. Size of Relief Area: One club-length from the reference point. Limits on Relief Area: The relief area:
  • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
  • Must be in the general area.
Player Notes: When taking relief, you must take complete relief from all interference by the abnormal course condition.
c

Relief for Your Ball in Bunker

If your ball is in a bunker and there is interference by an abnormal course condition on the course, you may take either:
  • 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, you may still take this relief, by using the point of maximum available relief in the bunker as the reference point.
  • Penalty Relief by Playing from Outside Bunker (Back-On-the-Line Relief): For one penalty stroke, you may drop a ball as shown in Diagram 16.1c.
The diagram assumes a right-handed player. When there is interference from an abnormal course condition in a bunker, free relief may be taken in the bunker under Rule 16.1b. Relief may be taken outside the bunker for one penalty stroke. Relief outside the bunker is based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball in the bunker. Reference Point: A point on the course outside the bunker chosen by the player that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the original spot (with no limit on how far back on the line). Size of Relief Area: One club-length from the reference point. Limits on Relief Area: The relief area:
  • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
  • May be in any area of the course.
Player Notes: In choosing this reference point, you should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
d

Relief for Ball on Putting Green

If your ball is on the putting green and there is interference by an abnormal course condition, you may take free relief by placing the original ball or another ball as shown in Diagram 16.1d. The diagram assumes the player is left-handed. When a ball is on the putting green and there is interference by an abnormal course condition, free relief may be taken by placing a ball on the spot of the nearest point of complete relief. Reference Point: The nearest point of complete relief. Size of Relief Area: Ball must be placed on the spot of the nearest point of complete relief. Limits on Relief Area: The nearest point of complete relief must be either:
  • On the putting green, or
  • In the general area.
Player Notes:
  • When taking relief, you must take complete relief from all interference by the abnormal course condition.
  • If there is no such nearest point of complete relief, you 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 Your Ball Not Found but in or on Abnormal Course Condition

If your ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that your ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course condition on the course, you may take relief under Rule 16.1b, c or d. You do this by using the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the abnormal course condition on the course as the reference point. See Full Rules For more information on how to take relief if your ball is in or on an abnormal course condition but has not been found.
f

Relief Must Be Taken from Interference by No Play Zone in Abnormal Course Condition

In each of these situations, your ball must not be played as it lies:
  • If your ball is in a no play zone that is in an abnormal course condition,you must take relief under Rule 16.1b, c, or d.
  • If your ball is outside a no play zone and a no play zone (whether in an abnormal course condition or in a penalty area) interferes with your area of intended stance or area of intended swing. You must either take relief under Rule 16.1 or, unless your ball is in a penalty area, take unplayable ball relief under Rule 19.
Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.1: General Penalty.
16.2

Dangerous Animal Condition

A "dangerous animal condition" exists when a dangerous animal (such as a poisonous snake or an alligator) near your ball could cause you serious physical injury if you had to play the ball as it lies. See Full Rules For information on how to take relief from a dangerous animal condition.
16.3

Embedded Ball

a

When Relief Is Allowed

Relief is allowed only when your ball is embedded in the general area. But if your ball is embedded on the putting green, you may mark the spot of your ball, lift and clean it, repair the damage, and replace your ball on its original spot. Exceptions - When Relief Not Allowed for Ball Embedded in General Area:
  • When your 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 your ball being embedded makes your stroke clearly unreasonable (for example, when you are unable to make a stroke because of where your ball lies in a bush).
Your ball is embedded only if it is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of your previous stroke and part of your ball is below the level of the ground.
b

Relief for Embedded Ball

When your ball is embedded in the general area, you may take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball as shown in Diagram 16.3b. When a ball is embedded in the general area, free relief may be taken. The reference point for taking relief is the spot right behind where the ball is embedded. A ball must be dropped in and come to rest in the relief area. Reference Point: The spot right behind where the ball is embedded. Size of Relief Area: One club-length from the reference point. Limits on Relief Area: The relief area:
  • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
  • Must be in the general area.
Penalty for Playing a Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.3: General Penalty.
16.4

Lifting Your Ball to See If It Lies in Condition Where Relief Allowed

If you reasonably believe that your ball lies in a condition where free relief is allowed under the Rules, but you cannot decide that without lifting your ball, you may mark the spot and lift the ball to see if relief is allowed. The lifted ball must not be cleaned (except when it is on the putting green). See Full Rules For more information on lifting your ball to see if it lies in a condition where relief is allowed, including the penalty for lifting your ball without reasonable belief.
EXPLORE MORE
Rule 1The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules
Purpose: Rule 1 introduces these central principles of the game: Play the course as you find it and play your ball as it lies. Play by the Rules ...
Read More