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In a junior event, one of my competitors hit his tee shot in the rough, where an unsuspecting grandmother/spectator ran over it with her golf cart, causing the ball to be severely embedded. We elected to give him a free drop, concluding that the embedded ball rule applied. Afterward, though, we wondered if we should have proceeded using the outside agency rule instead. Did we apply the right rule? —Ryan O’Rourke, West Bloomfield, Mich.
Like Whitney Houston, Rules Guy believes the children are our future. And he commends you, Ryan, for your deep interest in the rules and wishes you success in your competitive undertakings.
As it happens, your second-guessing is justified. To be embedded, the ball needs to be in its own pitch mark as a result of the previous stroke, per Rule 16.3.
Instead, Rule 9.6 applies, meaning no penalty and replace the ball—and then, because the lie was altered, Rule 14.2d tells you how to replace it. That’s in the nearest lie most similar to the original lie within one club length of the ball, no nearer the hole and in the same area of the course as the ball’s original spot.
Remember Whitney’s advice too: Never walk in anyone’s shadow. (Google it, or ask your parents.)
For more embedded-ball guidance from our guru, read on …
In stroke play, my fellow competitor skipped his tee shot over a pond, but the ball lodged in its muddy bank, which was not staked as out of bounds. He claimed embedded-ball relief and took relief in the general area. Although I disagreed, it was getting late and I wanted to finish. What was the correct ruling?
—Larry Lohman, via email
The desire to finish a round, or simply end a disagreement without resorting to strong words or pistols at dawn, has precipitated countless bad rulings — including this one.
A body of water such as a pond is by definition a penalty area, even if it’s not staked. And when the edge is not defined by the committee in charge, it’s defined by its natural boundaries, in this case, where the ground breaks down toward the water.
So it sure sounds like that muddy bank is in the penalty area, and as such your fellow competitor wasn’t entitled to embedded ball relief, since there is no relief for other rules where the ball is in the penalty area per Rule 17.3. You can stake your reputation on that.
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