Ask the Rules Guy: Soggy Situation

The Rules Guy

Rules Guy,
I hit my tee shot on an uphill par-3 short but still in the fairway. It was a soggy morning, and when I got to the end of the fairway I found my ball soundly plugged in the short grass. Believing that I was entitled to a free drop, I picked up my ball and dropped it next to the mark. I then chipped up to the green, but didn’t get nearly enough on the ball—it stopped on a hill leading up the green and then depressingly rolled right back to where I was standing, replugging itself in the hole where my tee shot had landed. Was I allowed to take another free drop, or did I have to take an unplayable lie?

—Geoff P., Los Angeles, Calif.

This soggy situation has a little bit of give and take…but mostly take. You were correct in your first course of action—Rule 25-2 allows a player to lift, clean and drop without penalty a ball that has become embedded in its own pitch mark in the fairway. After that, however, things take a turn decidedly not in your favor. According to decision 25-2/3, you are only entitled to relief from a pitch mark that was created by your last stroke. In this case, you would have been forced to play your ball as it lay or take one stroke to drop it from an unplayable lie. But don’t worry, if your bad luck continued and your drop landed back inside that same pitch mark, that’s one case where you would be allowed a free drop (25-2/2.5).