RULE: Ball in drain pipe

We saw my ball head towards the open drain to the left on hole #13, but when we arrived there, the ball was nowhere to be seen. "Have a look up the underground pipe - it might be there!"

Sure enough, there it was about half a metre up the pipe. Now what do I do?

What is the rule about this situation? My ball is not really in the drain. It is basically 'underground'! Do I have to play it as it lies; can I get relief with/without penalty? What is the status of the pipe? Is it an obstruction or just an integral part of the course?


Well, it is simple as the rules refer to this pipe as an immovable obstruction, and I am entitled to a free drop from the nearest point of relief. A less simple decision is determining that nearest point of relief. Do I measure from the "mouth" of the pipe, or a point directly above where the ball lies?

The Rule on Obstructions (Rule 24) says that you must lift the ball (after getting it from the drain) and dropping it one club length from the nearest point of relief. Definitions tells us that the nearest point of relief is "the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies that is not nearer the hole, and where .... no interference by the condition from which relief is sought would exist ..." (see p39 of 2016 Rules of Golf for the full definition.) There your base point in this case is directly above the point at which the ball lay in the pipe.

Another possibility is that you can see a ball in the pipe, but it is unreachable, and therefor you are unable to identify it as yours. It must be "known or virtually certain that the ball" in the obstruction is yours. If you cannot identify it, nor can you find your ball within the allotted time, you are deemed to have lost your ball, and Rule 27-1 (Lost Ball) applies. Tough!

There are quite a few other such pipes around the course. Remember NO RELIEF is available from interference by an immovable obstruction (pipe) in a water hazard or lateral water hazard.

So choose your pipe carefully!