This rule comes up mostly when courses are wet, but a player can have an embedded ball at any time. An embedded ball is when a ball comes to rest in its own pitchmark on a “closely mown area of the course” (grass cut to the height of the grass on the fairway). This is a case were free-relief (penalty free) is given to a player.
Having lived in Northern California for many years, golf courses can get saturated with water after heavy rains in the winter but it is still warm enough to play. So it isn’t unusual to on these days to hit a nice drive that just splats into the ground or even burrows itself completely underground. Courses don’t want players to dig the ball out with their club, so the USGA has this rule regarding embedded balls.
* Mark your ball, probably with a tee but anything will do.
* You can pick up your ball and clean it.
* Hold the ball at shoulder height and drop it as closely as possible to where the ball had been embedded, no closer to the flagstick.
* If the ball rolls into the pitchmark, repeat the procedure. If it happens again, place the ball as close to the pitchmark as possible, no closer to the flagstick.
But what happens if the ball is embedded in the rough? In a sand bunker? In a tree? Unfortunately, you do not get relief so you either need to play it as it lies or you can declare the ball unplayable and take relief plus a one stroke penalty.
One other thing. You may have heard of “Lift, Clean and Place”. This is a practice that is allowed by courses (or tournament organizers) if a course is very wet. If this practice is allowed on that day, a player may mark his ball, clean it and place it within a few inches of its original position, no closer to the hole. The course or tournament organizer may, in extreme situations, even allow for Lift, Clean and Place to be in effect in the rough as well, but never in a sand bunker.
USGA Rule 25-2 and USGA Appendix Part A-4-a
Comments? Find us on Facebook or Tweet us at @golfrulespro.