Are you eligible for free bridge relief above a burn? The rules guy


What do the rules say about relieving a bridge over a burn?

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The rules of golf are tricky! Fortunately, we have the guru. Our rules guy knows the book inside and out. you have a question? He has all the answers.

Several years ago in Scotland my ball came to rest on a small bridge over a burn. I played a shot from the bridge as well as a provisional from behind. At the end of the round, we asked in the pro shop if I had been entitled to a free drop. In a thick Scottish brogue the response was “If you hadn’t been on deck you would have been in the fire!” Which, well, didn’t clear things up. What is the rule ? — Peter Therrien, British Columbia, Canada

Yes, boy, what we can say for certain is that…it depends – particularly on how the burn was marked.

Rules Guy saw land bridges with a small tunnel below where the burn is marked as a separate penalty area.

Usually, however, the bridge (or at least most of it) is scored inside the penalty area, so the ball on the bridge is in the penalty area.

The only relief available is penalty relief, for one stroke, under Rule 17.1d. Anyway, lang may yer lum stink! (Here’s to your health.)

For more relief-related tips from our guru, read on…

ball against the pass

The Rules Man: Are you allowed free clearance from the pass of the green?


The rules guy

In stroke play, my teammate jumped his tee shot over a pond, but the ball lodged in its muddy bank, which was not staked as out of bounds. He called for embedded ball relief and took relief in the general area. Even though I disagreed, it was getting late and I wanted to finish. What was the right decision? —Larry Lohman, via email

The desire to end a round, or simply end a disagreement without resorting to strong words or dawn guns, has precipitated countless bad decisions, including this one.

A body of water such as a pond is by definition a penalty area, even if it is not staked. And when the edge is not defined by the committee in charge, it is defined by its natural limits, in this case where the ground collapses towards the water.

So it does appear that this muddy embankment is in the penalty area, and as such your fellow-competitor was not entitled to built-in ball relief, since there is no relief for other Rules where the ball is in the penalty area under Rule 17.3. You can stake your reputation on it.

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Do you have a question about the rules? Ask the guy for the rules! Send your questions, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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