"Do I get relief for an embedded ball?"
“Do I get relief for an embedded ball,” the player asked?
As I peered down to see his ball deeply embedded in a soft area of sand covered with pine straw, I responded with “no, you cannot take relief if that’s your ball.”
At the recent Amateur Championship conducted at Jupiter Hills Club in Tequesta, there were many areas, just off the fairways, that were sandy areas covered with pine straw. Many players had questions as to relief available for the situation.
The FSGA has the Local Rule in effect for a ball embedded through the green in all of its Championships as does the USGA and most all of the Professional Tours. However, you need to read whole Local Rule.
Rule 25 covers the situation and specifically section two of that Rule. The Rule states,
“A ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in any closely mown area through the green may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole.”
However, the Local Rule modifies the Rule. It provides relief for an embedded ball anywhere through the green (including areas of rough and woods) except when it is embedded in sand in an area not closely mown.
That last sentence is the kicker that tripped up so many players. The exclusion of the sandy areas meant that all of those areas off the fairways that were sandy, whether or not covered with pine straw, would get no relief since they were not closely mown.
This is the same Local Rule that Tiger Woods breached in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship earlier this year that caused him to miss the cut.
One the other hand, if you did have an area that was closely mown, such as a fairway, and a ball became embedded in a sand filled divot, you would get free relief.
Remember, use the definitions, index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.