In my last Rules Corner, I addressed the Local Rule for relief from sprinkler heads around the putting green. In that discussion I mentioned “the General Area,” and I received the question, what is the General Area?
USGA defines areas of the course this way:
- The Teeing Area of the hole being played
- All Penalty Areas
- All Bunkers
- The Putting Green of the hole being played
Prior to 2019, the General Area was called “through the green”. Part of the purpose of the 2019 rules update was to make the language of the Rules simpler and easier to understand.
In doing so, they did away with some of the old archaic language like “through the green” and “rub of the green.”
So now, “everything else” is called the General Area. It includes all fairways, rough and fringes of putting greens. It also includes any Teeing Area or putting green that is not part of the hole that you are playing. Practice greens are also considered part of the General Area.
If a rule, such as Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions), tells you your Relief Area must be in the General Area, it does not distinguish the fairway from the rough. You can drop in either.
It is a common misconception that you can’t “change course conditions” (i.e. move from the rough to the fairway) when taking relief, but that’s not true. If the rules specify the General Area, there is no restriction on moving between the rough and the fairway to take relief.
There are a couple of situations where taking relief is restricted or required.
Ball on the wrong putting green
Putting greens other than the one of the hole being played are categorized as part of the General Area. However, Rule 13.1f mandates that you MUST take relief if your ball is on a wrong green or if a wrong green physically interferes with your area of intended stance or area of intended swing.
You DO NOT have an option to play your ball as it lies if the ball is ON a wrong green or taking a normal stance would mean that you would be standing ON a wrong green.