Rule of the Month: Why Be Normal?
By Sr. Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
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Abnormal Course Conditions
Every golfer will encounter many conditions on a golf course requiring a variety of special golf skills. However, some conditions found on the course are not part of the challenge of playing the course and it would be unfair to require a player to play the ball as it lies. Still other conditions may even be dangerous for the player to properly proceed under the Rules of Golf. In these situations, the Rules allow a player to play a ball from a different location without incurring a penalty.
Free relief from animal holes, ground under repair, immovable obstructions and temporary water, formally known as casual water, are all covered by Rule 16 which explains interference from these conditions as well as the procedure for taking relief. These conditions are now collectively called abnormal course conditions and taking free relief will be the same for each.
Test your knowledge of abnormal course conditions and the free relief procedure with the following questions.
Questions: True / False
- Interference on the line of play by an abnormal course condition only exists when the ball is on the putting green.
- A player’s ball lies in a penalty area and an animal hole interferes with the area of his or her intended stance. Free relief is available but the ball must be dropped in the same penalty area.
- Free relief from an abnormal ground condition may result in the player having an unplayable lie.
- When the ball lies on a cart path, the player may choose either side of the path to drop a ball.
- A hole dug by an animal that is not a burrowing animal is not an abnormal ground condition.
- If a player’s ball lies in the general area of the course but his or her stance is interfered with by an animal hole that is located inside a penalty area, the player is allowed free relief.
- A player is always allowed free relief from an abnormal course condition when his or her ball lies in the general area of the course.
- When dropping a ball for free relief from temporary water in a bunker, the ball may be dropped in the same bunker or a nearby bunker but not closer to the hole.
- If there is no spot in the bunker giving the player complete relief from the temporary water in the bunker, the player is allowed to drop a ball where he or she would receive the maximum available relief and will be playing the ball with less interference from the temporary water.
- A player with interference from an abnormal course condition in a bunker may drop a ball outside the bunker, under a one-stroke penalty, only when there is no nearest point of complete relief.
- True. Rule 16.1a(1). If the ball lies anywhere other than the putting green, such as the fringe, fairway or rough, there is no free relief for interference on the line of play. For example, if the ball is on the fringe and an area of temporary water on the putting green interferes with the line of play, the player is not allowed free relief. The Committee may remove the water or authorize the player to do so but the player is not allowed to take this action without permission from the Committee.
- False. Rule 16.1a(2). Free relief for an abnormal course condition is available anywhere on the course except when the ball lies in a penalty area. The player’s options are to play the ball as it lies or take penalty relief under Rule 17 for a ball in a penalty area.
- True. Rule 16.1 & Interpretation 16.1/1. The player must drop within one club-length (relief area) of the nearest point of complete relief which may be in deep rough or the middle of a bush. The NEAREST point of complete relief doesn’t guarantee the NICEST point of complete relief.
- False. Definition of Nearest Point of Complete Relief & Interpretation /1. The nearest point of complete relief is the nearest spot to where the ball lies that the player will not have any interference from the cart path. This could result in the player having a much more difficult shot if the nearest point of complete relief is in an area of deep rough. The nearest point of complete relief must be correctly determined and a ball dropped within one club-length of that spot but not nearer the hole. Playing the ball as it lies from the cart path might be the easier shot.
- False. Definition of Abnormal Course Condition. A hole dug by a member of the animal kingdom (except worms, insects and the like) is an abnormal course condition. Therefore, holes dug by a bird, dog or rodent are abnormal course conditions and free relief is available under Rule 16.
- True. Rule 16.1a(2). It is not the location of the abnormal course condition that determines if a player gets free relief, but rather the location of the ball. In this situation, the ball was in the general area and an abnormal course condition on the course interfered with his or her stance. Therefore, free relief is available. It is important to note that the abnormal course condition must be on the course for free relief to be available. There is no free relief for conditions off the course.
- False. Rule 16.1a(3). Relief from an abnormal course condition is not available when it is clearly unreasonable to play the ball because of interference from anything other than the abnormal course condition, such as a bush or tree roots. Additionally, a player is not allowed to create interference by use of a clearly unreasonable choice of club, stance, swing or direction of play.
- False. Rule 16.1c(1). When taking free relief for an abnormal course condition in a bunker, the nearest point of complete relief and the one club-length relief area must be located in the same bunker that the ball lies in. See questions Nos. 9 and 10 for further clarity.
- True. Rule 16.1c(1). The point of maximum available relief may only be used when there is no nearest point of complete relief in the bunker. It is a point in the bunker, not closer to the hole than where the ball lies and where the abnormal course condition least interferes with the player’s next stroke. Therefore, the player will be dropping a ball within one club-length of the point of maximum available relief and playing the ball with less interference from the temporary water.
False. Rule 16.1c(2). Anytime a player has interference from an abnormal course condition in a bunker, he or she may use the option to drop a ball outside the bunker and add one penalty stroke. The player will use the back on a line relief procedure by going straight back from the hole through the original spot of the ball. A ball must be dropped within one club-length of this line, with no limit on how far back the player may choose the reference point.