Under the new rules of golf, players may take relief for an embedded ball anywhere in the “general area” (except in sand). “General area” is the new term for “through the green.”
A player may take relief without penalty for an embedded ball anywhere in the “general area” (new term for “through the green”), unless a Local Rule has been adopted restricting relief only to areas cut to fairway height or less. The general area is the new term for “through the green”.
Relief is allowed only in areas cut to fairway height or less, unless a Local Rule has been adopted allowing relief anywhere (except in sand) through the green.
Reasons for change:
This is an appropriate exception to the principle of playing the ball as it lies because having to play a ball that is stuck in soft or wet ground (whether in the fairway or the rough) should not be considered part of the normal challenge of playing a course.
Allowing relief throughout the general area is consistent with other relief Rules, which do not make distinctions based on the height of the grass in the general area.
In many countries, the Local Rule was sufficiently well established that golfers assumed the Rules had always allowed relief anywhere in the general area.
Reversing the default position helps avoid the confusion that sometimes existed previously when clubs or players did not realize that such relief was not allowed unless a Local Rule had been adopted.
For more information on the new Rules of Golf and for the complete explanation, visit usga.org/rules.