Rules Guy: What’s the ruling when a ball falls into an unmarked drainage grate?

What do the rules say about unmarked drainage grates?

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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.

Recently, while walking my dog on a local private course closed for the season, I came across a drainage grate with openings large enough for a golf ball drop through. The grate wasn’t in the fairway, but it wasn’t out-of-bounds, either. What’s the ruling and procedure should a ball fall in? — Jerry Talleri, Manchester by the Sea, MA

Rules Guy would need a little more info about exactly what this grate is and what the ball would be falling into when it falls through to answer with certitude.

With that caveat, let’s assume that you are not talking about the area being part of a surface drainage ditch, which is by definition a penalty area, but rather the kind of cement-lined, immovable obstruction that falls under an abnormal course condition.

If so, the player gets free relief under Rule 16.1b if he finds the ball or Rule 16.1e if he doesn’t find it but it is known or virtual certain the ball is in the drainage basin under the grate.

For more relief guidance from our guru, read on …

Bridge on golf course
Rules Guy: Are you entitled to free relief from a bridge in a hazard?
By: Rules Guy

My home course has a safety net that lines the left side of a tee box. A playing partner hit the furthest pole holding up the net, and the ball flew back behind the tee box, though it was still in play. But are the pole and netting treated the same way as overhanging wires? Which reminds me … how are overhanging wires treated again?
— Thomas Gilmore, via email

If nothing else, your playing partner’s foozle certainly seems to underscore the wisdom of the safety net!

This is simply a case of a ball in motion accidentally deflected by an outside influence, as covered in Rule 11.1.

The choices are to play the ball as it now lies or take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.1, which in this case would allow for a re-tee, now playing 3.

Not to leave you with a, er, cliffhanger, but overhanging wires would be handled by local rule; this might entail a cancel-and-replay requirement should a ball strike a wire or line of play relief for the wires of temporary immovable obstructions.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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