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Embedded Ball - There's More to it Than Would Appear

March 2009
By Tim Kilty

Rule 25 - 2   The embedded ball rule is the shortest rule in the rule book, consisting of only three sentences, but don't let that fool you! It has many aspects that can trip you up if you're not careful.

First and foremost let's define an embedded ball, which is a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground, in any closely mown area, through the green.

Three requirements:

  1. In the ground. A ball is not considered embedded if it is embedded in grass, leaves or other loose impediments. In order to be considered embedded, the ball's pitch-mark must be below the level of the ground.
  2. Closely mown area, refers to the fairway areas, not roughs.
  3. Through the green.  This refers to the whole area of the course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards. Thus, you can not have an embedded ball in a bunker or water hazard. If you do have a ball embedded in these areas, you must operate under the applicable rule, 13-4 and 26-1.

Normally if you are playing collegiate or amateur golf in North America, a Local Rule is in effect that allows you to take relief from an embedded ball anywhere on the course, through the green, not just closely mown areas. However, this Local Rule is not automatic! It must be published in the local rules of the competition. There's one hooker! You can't take relief for a ball embedded in sand that is not in a closely mown area, i.e. waste areas.

Two cautions when taking relief under the embedded ball rule:

  1. The ball must be dropped as near as possible to the spot where it lay not nearer the hole, not within one club length, as is the normal procedure when taking relief without penalty.
  2. Do not repair the pitch-mark until after you have taken relief and hit your shot. If you do repair the pitch-mark prior to the above, you are subject to a two stroke penalty for a violation of 13-2,  creating or eliminating irregularities of surface.

Rule 25-2 is here to help you, but only if you proceed properly!

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