Rules Guy: Can you take free relief from the sod of your own divot?

divot on ball

What happens if you take a swing and lay the sod over your ball? Can you take free relief from your own divot? Rules Guy has the answer.

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

A buddy of mine recently chunked an approach shot so badly that he laid the sod over his ball — literally. A toupee of turf, still connected to the ground, flopped over on top of his Titleist, rendering it pretty much unhittable. Given that this impediment wasn’t “loose,” was he still entitled to free relief?
—Josh Brown, Oakland, Calif.

The dreaded toupee, no better suited to the golf course than to the bald pate … As you suspect, an attached divot isn’t a loose impediment, so there’s no free relief on offer for this rather comical calamity. Your pal must either play the ball as it lies — near impossible, apparently — or, if the ball is in the general area, take unplayable ball relief under Rule 19 for one penalty stroke.

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If the ball was in a penalty area, penalty area relief would likewise be available under Rule 17, also for one penalty stroke. The problem with attempting to move the divot in this scenario is that it’s essentially impossible to do so without improving the player’s conditions affecting the stroke — and doing that results in the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

Like a toupee itself, that’s adding insult to injury.

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