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
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.
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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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 across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...