#19 Impunity relief - what is it?

Published on   2023-07-06 by Kai

Every golfer is familiar with the term "non-punitive relief". But again and again there are difficulties in its application and the question arises in which situation this penalty-free relief may be used. Therefore, here is the explanation of the term and the different ways in which it can be applied.

In general, a golfer may claim non-punitive relief if he is hindered by unusual course conditions (these include the ground in repair, intermittent water or even holes on the course caused by animals) or immovable obstacles. A handicap can be said to exist if the swing or stance is made impossible or possible only with restriction by the described conditions.

Rule with restrictions

However, there are three restrictions: If only the desired direction of play is impeded, but the ball could be played in another direction within the court boundaries, the possibility of facilitation without penalty does not exist. Likewise, a situation where the stance is restricted but the ball could not be played "correctly" even without this restriction (for example, because it is resting against a tree trunk or under a bush) also does not lead to the application of this rule. And even in a no-play zone, the so-called penalty area, (marked by red or yellow posts) it is not allowed to rely on penalty-free facilitation. Here it is mandatory to change the ball position, but it costs a penalty stroke.

The areas where the position of the ball may be changed without incurring a penalty, the so-called "immovable barriers", include paths with artificial surfaces, fences, benches, walls, shelters, but also ball cleaners, signs or water sprinklers. The easement applies to the location of the ball as well as to the stance or swing of a golfer. So, for example, if the ball is under a bank, it may be picked up and the position improved. This also applies if an immovable obstruction on the green, such as a sprinkler, impedes the putting line.

If a ball has bored into the ground (but not in the bunker), relief may also be pleaded. If the ball is on the wrong green, relief must be applied and the ball must be placed elsewhere, otherwise there would be two penalty strokes in this situation.

Correct application

How is this relief applied? For this purpose, one must distinguish between three areas. If the ball lies in the terrain, look for the nearest point where neither the ball position nor the stance or the swing are hindered (= complete facilitation) and drop the ball within the facilitation area. Important first: this point must not be closer to the hole under any circumstances. The relief area is defined by the radius of a club length around this point. So you think of a circle around the point of complete relief and drop the ball there to continue playing.

In the bunker, the same principle is used, except that the ball must not leave the bunker, a point must be found within it. If the bunker is under water, however, the ball may be dropped outside on the extension line from the hole to the ball (i.e. in the opposite direction to the hole direction). However, this costs a penalty stroke.

Loose natural materials can also hinder

In the third case, on one's own green, complete relief is also sought and the radius is formed around it. However, the ball is not dropped, so as not to damage the green, but simply put down, of course, here too, not closer to the hole.

By the way, the other type of relief exists when the ball is impaired in position by loose natural materials, i.e. loose leaves, small branches or the like. Then the ball position may not be changed, but the loose natural materials may be removed without penalty. However, this does not apply in a water or a bunker. And - very important: the ball must not move.

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How to Golf