Rules of Golf: Plugged Lie

Don't panic when you suffer a plugged lie, the Rules of Golf now allow relief from an embedded ball in any part of the golf course's general area

Rules of Golf: Plugged Lie

Rules of Golf: Plugged Lie

Within the rules of golf a plugged lie is known as an embedded ball. The good news is that unless you are in a bunker or penalty area, you do now get relief without penalty.

Under the pre-2019 rules, this was only the case if you were on the fairway or other closely mown areas. That has now been extended to include the general area – this means all areas of the course except the tee of the hole you are playing, bunkers, penalty areas and the putting green, although, of course, you may always lift and mark your ball if plugged on the putting green, and then repair the pitch mark.

Related - Penalty Areas: How to proceed under rule 17

The first thing to do is take care to check whether or not your ball is actually embedded. It can’t just be sitting down in the grass; it needs to be in its own pitch mark. There is a handy diagram on page 100 of the Player’s Edition of the rules!

If this is the case, identify the spot right behind where the ball is embedded – we would recommend you use a tee peg for this. From there you have one club length (no nearer the hole) to choose the best place to drop your ball. Remember that a club length is now the longest club in your bag on that day, except your putter.

Related - Golf Rules Explained: Provisional Ball

There are a couple of small warnings related to this rule that are worth pointing out. There is no free relief when your ball is embedded in sand in the general area away from the fairway, and if your ball is embedded in an area where playing a shot is clearly unreasonable, you do not get free relief. For example, if your ball is plugged deep inside a bush you would have to take the normal unplayable lie relief and the penalty shot that comes with that rule.

Hopefully this explanation gives you everything you need to know about how to proceed if you have a plugged lie. By offering relief when your ball plugs off the fairway, we think golf’s ruling bodies have made the game a little fairer. Make sure you remember Rule 16.3, especially when the golf course is wet under foot!

Related - Golf Rules: Lost Ball

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Are you interested in making lasting improvements to your golf game? Shoot Lower Scores is an online course from Golf Monthly designed to help you find power in your swing and hole more putts as well as how to avoid falling foul of the more challenging rules of golf. Whether you want to brush up your knowledge or learn something new; this tutorial is perfect.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response