Sometimes after a prolonged wet spell or during the off-season you’re going to play somewhere where the ground conditions are abnormally soft, and balls coming in from some height will plug, or embed, themselves into the ground on landing, leaving you staring at a half-buried ball that would be extremely difficult to play.
Thankfully, the Rules of Golf legislate for the embedded or plugged lie, although not everywhere on the course, as you will see in this latest video from our Rules of Golf series produced in association with The R&A.
Rule 25-2 is where you’ll find solace, for it allows you to lift, clean and drop a ball embedded in its own pitchmark on any “closely mown area” of the course. “Closely mown” includes not only the fairways and the fringes or aprons of the greens, but also any paths cut through the rough to fairway height or less.
Landing on such a path could constitute a really lucky break for, contrary to what some golfers believe, there is no automatic relief from a ball embedded in the rough.
In such scenarios, you are going to either have to take it on the chin and have a go at it, or take a penalty drop. However, it is always worth checking the Local Rules before you head out, as some clubs will have a Local Rule in force extending embedded ball relief to “through the green”, which would include the rough.
Note that even under winter rules there is no automatic relief from plugged lies in the rough – it requires a separate Local Rule allowing relief from embedded balls away from closely mown areas.
If no such Local Rule exists, then you have no choice but to either play the ball as it lies or take relief under penalty… and then complain to the committee afterwards that there really should be relief from plugged lies in the rough given current conditions!