Rule 16.3 – Embedded Ball

The third instalment of the new 2019 rules focuses on an embedded ball. This rule is often misunderstood and as a result, the golf governing bodies have decided tried to simplify the Rule 16.3 for all levels of players. I understand the reasoning for the change, but do not necessarily agree that it meets their intent. 

I can appreciate the frustration of finding my ball embedded in soft ground on the fairway. However, it is even more frustrating is finding my ball embedded in the rough or the woods. By the old rules, my ball off the fairway would be considered unplayable and I would have to follow the old Rule 28 and award myself a 1 stroke penalty (there are other penalties depending on the situation). I had several options for the drop, but that is all in the past now.

Before moving forward, it is important to understand a new term: general area. Basically, it means all areas on the course that is not considered a teeing area or hazard. The old term we used was “through the green”.

Source: 2019 Rules of Golf

Under the new rule 16.3, I would be allowed a free drop, as indicated in the infographic above, with no penalty. A free drop outside side a hazard is always a great thing for any golfer. Under the new rules, the relief has changed and is limiting. I understand their reasoning of removing the element of chance for embedding your ball off the “closely mowed areas”, but do not necessarily agree with their approach.

I think that rule 16.3 rewards wayward shots. Players who miss the fairway or hit their ball in the woods can be rewarded for a poor shot by an embedded ball. I realize others will suggest that tacking on another stroke for an unlucky bounce (embedded ball) is not fair either, but I suggest that is part of golf. It is my opinion that we should not be rewarded for wayward shots.

I am sure there are those who relish this new rule and that is completely fine. Rule 16.3 is in effect and I will accept it immediately. This is just one step in the evolution of golf and the governing bodies are trying to make it the best game ever.

Do you agree with the new rule on embedded ball relief in the general area?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


14 thoughts on “Rule 16.3 – Embedded Ball

  1. Pingback: Turning A Blind Eye To Rules Infractions | The Grateful Golfer

    • Should he have asked for a 2nd opinion to avoid a Rules violation? No, not according to Rules 16.3 & 16.4. Should he have done so in order to avoid a media controversy – yes probably so. However, Rory had a very similar situation on #18 on the same day. He did not get a 2nd opinion either before or after touching the ball. Yet there was no media controversy. One could argue that Reed went above and beyond what Rory did. Both players proceeded correctly under the rules.


      • David,

        I agree technically, neither player did anything wrong. In the case of Patrick Reed, he waved the official over and then moved his ball and searched for the embedded ball make. I suggest that if he was going to call the official over, wait until they arrive before doing anything. If he did not call the official over, then he should have continued like McIlroy and take the drop. Unfortunately, past performance skewed the perception of the viewers and we all know that perception is reality.

        Cheers Jim


      • Jim the rule says:
        Rule 16.3 allows relief for a ball embedded anywhere in the “general area” (that is, the area previously known as “through the green”), except when embedded in sand.

        Bunkers are NOT part of the General Area so the comment “except when embedded in sand” refers to sand not in Bunkers. Earlier this month I attended a 3 day Rules Workshop presented by USGA and PGA. They specifically said the rule does not allow relief from sand in General Area.

        I hope this helps.


  2. Tough call. If it’s wet enough to embed on the fairway, it’s wet enough to embed in the rough. But that’s not always the case the other way around. The higher grass as well as trees and shrubs can block the sun and leave the rough wet longer. Sometimes days longer during times of high humidity and little breeze.

    The course was wet enough to embed today. None of mine stayed embeded, but there was a lot of lift clean and place going on.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I wish I could say I did, but it was an off day for me. But without a few bad days, we wouldn’t appreciate the great ones so much. All I can say about the day was the few good shots I had were really good, and I ended the day well with a birdie.

        Liked by 1 person

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