RULE: Plugged ball

When the course is wet, my high approach shot plugged into the ground short of the green.
Even when the course is dry, the slope in front of the watered green occasionally sees my ball plug.

Boy, this is unfair - how can I hit a plugged ball? What do the rules allow me to do?Don't despair - the Rules have recognised this problem (sort of!)

Rule 16.3a Embedded Ball says, "Relief is allowed only when your ball is embedded in the general area." Fair enough, so it should be. But what is the general area?

The general area is defined as the area of the course that covers all of the course except for:

  • the teeing area of the hole you are playing
  • all penalty areas
  • all bunkers, and
  • the putting green of the hole you are playing.


 That means, if your ball plugs off the fairway, or the secondary rough around the green, you are entitled to the same relief - ie lift, clean and drop without penalty.

A common incidence here is plugging into the slopes or banks around greens, like #10 or #18 for example.

Have a look at this image where my ball has plugged into the bank behind #18 green (being long on 18 is better than being short!!!)

Where exactly is the relief area so I can drop my ball correctly, without ball not rolling nearer the hole, onto the green, or rolling out of the relief area?

Well Rule 14.3 describes clearly how and where to drop a ball. Rule 16.3b tells you how you can take free relief when your ball is embedded in the general area.You can take relief from this situation, dropping the ball without penalty as near as possible to the spot where it is plugged. See Diagram 16.3b for determining the extent of the relief area for a free drop in this case. 

If your ball (amongst other things) rolls onto the putting green, or rolls out of the relief area, or rolls and comes to rest nearer the hole - then you must redrop. Go back to look at Rule 14.3c  If your second re-drop still 'offends', then you can place the ball on the spot the second re-drop strikes the ground in the relief area. So in this case you will obtain relief without penalty from the ball being embedded, but you will still have to negotiate a tricky shot from the sloping bank!

PS: Don't forget to fill your embedded ball hole when you finish the shot. If another player's ball rolls into your pitch mark, there is NO free relief for that player. The rule clearly says "a ball embedded in its own pitch mark" .