Golf Rule 25, Abnormal Ground Conditions Embedded Ball And Wrong Putting Green
    Golf Rule 25, Abnormal Ground Conditions, Embedded Ball and Wrong Putting Green – Simplified Version



  • Note: According to the Rules, “abnormal ground conditions” include casual water, ground under repair (as marked by the maintenance crew) or holes, casts or other formations made by animals. Dew and frost are not considered casual water.
  • Examples of abnormal ground conditions: A puddle that isn’t part of a water hazard; water that has overflowed the boundaries of a water hazard; bushes, plants or trees inside an area marked as ground under repair; debris (grass clippings, tree limbs) that’s been piled for removal by the maintenance crew; mole hills.
  • Examples of things that are not abnormal ground conditions: Soft or mushy ground (unless water is visible on the surface); aeration holes created by maintenance; footprints left by animals.
  • 25-1. If the player’s ball lies in or touches an abnormal ground condition, if the condition affects his stance or swing, or if the condition is in the player’s line on the green, he gets relief without penalty (unless the ball is in a water hazard).

    Following is the procedure for taking a drop from an abnormal ground condition; the ball can be cleaned in all instances. Note: The nearest point of relief is the spot closest to the condition – but not on the green, in a hazard or closer to the hole – where the player can stand and swing without interference by the condition.

  • When the ball lies through the green (anywhere but the tee, green or in a hazard), lift and drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole.
  • When the ball is in a bunker, lift and drop it within one club-length of the nearest relief point; the relief point and drop spot must be in the bunker. Alternatively, the player can take a one-stroke penalty and drop outside the bunker, keeping the original spot directly between his ball and the hole. The player can go back as far as he wants behind the bunker.
  • When the ball is on the green, lift and place it at the nearest relief point that’s not in a hazard. The player can place the ball off the green.
  • When the ball is on the teeing ground, the procedure is the same as dropping through the green.
  • Players do not get relief from abnormal ground conditions if something other than the condition causes the interference, or if the condition only interferes when the player takes an unusual stance or swing. There’s no relief from abnormal ground conditions if the ball is in a water hazard.

  • Example: Gerald’s ball lies in the fairway, several feet from a puddle (casual water / abnormal ground condition). When taking his stance, Gerald moves his right foot well back from where he would normally place it, and his heel rests in the puddle. He is not allowed relief because he’s making an unusual effort – going out of his way – to cause the puddle to interfere. He must play the ball as it lies.
  • If it’s determined that a lost ball is in an abnormal ground condition, the player can take a free drop or placement with a substitute ball, using the spot at which the ball last crossed the condition’s edge as the ball’s position. Once that point is identified, drop / placement procedures are the same as above for a ball found in an abnormal ground condition.

    25-2. In the fairway or other area mowed at fairway height, a ball embedded in its own pitch mark can be lifted, cleaned and dropped as close as possible to its original spot, no nearer the hole, without penalty. This does not apply in the rough or hazards, but does apply to a tightly mowed area (e.g., a walking path) in the rough.

    25-3. If the player’s ball lies on a green on a different hole, he gets a free drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole. The drop can’t be on the green or in a hazard. The ball can be cleaned before dropping.

  • Penalties for violating Rule 25: Match play – loss of hole. Stroke play – two strokes.
  • 25-1. Abnormal Ground Conditions
    a. Interference
    Interference by an abnormal ground condition occurs when a ball lies in or touches the condition or when the condition interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing. If the player’s ball lies on the putting green, interference also occurs if an abnormal ground condition on the putting green intervenes on his line of putt. Otherwise, intervention on the line of play is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.

    Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule stating that interference by an abnormal ground condition with a player’s stance is deemed not to be, of itself, interference under this Rule.

    b. Relief

    Except when the ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, a player may take relief from interference by an abnormal ground condition as follows:(i)Through the Green: If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the condition and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.
    (ii)In a Bunker: If the ball is in a bunker, the player must lift the ball and drop it either:
    (a) Without penalty, in accordance with Clause (i) above, except that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker or, if complete relief is impossible, as near as possible to the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole, on a part of the course in the bunker that affords maximum available relief from the condition; or
    (b) Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.
    (iii)On the Putting Green: If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard or, if complete relief is impossible, at the nearest position to where it lay that affords maximum available relief from the condition, but not nearer the hole and not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief or maximum available relief may be off the putting green.
    (iv)On the Teeing Ground: If the ball lies on the teeing ground, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, in accordance with Clause (i) above.

    The ball may be cleaned when lifted under Rule 25-1b.

    (Ball rolling to a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken – see Rule 20-2c(v))

    Exception: A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an abnormal ground condition makes the stroke clearly impracticable or (b) interference by an abnormal ground condition would occur only through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.


    Note 1: If a ball is in a water hazard (including a lateral water hazard), the player is not entitled to relief, without penalty, from interference by an abnormal ground condition. The player must play the ball as it lies (unless prohibited by Local Rule) or proceed under Rule 26-1.


    Note 2: If a ball to be dropped or placed under this Rule is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.

    c. Ball in Abnormal Ground Condition Not Found
    It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward an abnormal ground condition is in such a condition. In order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that the ball is in the abnormal ground condition. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

    If it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in an abnormal ground condition, the player may take relief under this Rule. If he elects to do so, the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition must be determined and, for the purpose of applying this Rule, the ball is deemed to lie at this spot and the player must proceed as follows:(i)Through the Green: If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition at a spot through the green, the player may substitute another ball, without penalty, and take relief as prescribed in Rule 25-1b(i).
    (ii)In a Bunker: If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition at a spot in a bunker, the player may substitute another ball, without penalty, and take relief as prescribed in Rule 25-1b(ii).
    (iii)In a Water Hazard (including a Lateral Water Hazard): If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition at a spot in a water hazard, the player is not entitled to relief without penalty. The player must proceed under Rule 26-1.
    (iv)On the Putting Green: If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition at a spot on the putting green, the player may substitute another ball, without penalty, and take relief as prescribed in Rule 25-1b(iii).

    25-2. Embedded Ball
    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. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the coursethrough the green. “Closely mown area” means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.

    25-3. Wrong Putting Green
    a. Interference
    Interference by a wrong putting green occurs when a ball is on the wrong putting green.

    Interference to a player’s stance or the area of his intended swing is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.

    b. Relief
    If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must not play the ball as it lies. He must take relief, without penalty, as follows:

    The player must lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When dropping the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the wrong putting green and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green. The ball may be cleaned when lifted under this Rule.

    PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE:Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.