Rules of Golf: A ball lies in a rabbit scrape

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 30, 2011 16:33

A ball lies in a rabbit scrape and is under a tree. A free swing of the club is possible to send the ball at 90 degrees to the left of the tree, but there is no direct line to the target. The tree would affect swing or stance if one wished to send the ball towards the target (the green). Does the player obtain relief from the rabbit scrape?

The key to this situation is the exception to Rule 25-1b and if this applies to the tree and the burrowing animal hole. It is for the player to prove that it is actually reasonable to make a stroke at the ball in that position.

For example, if a ball lies deep in the roots of a tree and a rabbit scrape interferes with the lie or stance, the player should be denied relief as it is clearly not reasonable to make a stroke due to the tree and the roots. The rabbit scrape cannot be used as an ‘excuse’ to avoid a penalty for what is essentially an unplayable ball. If the player cannot play the ball, the player must proceed by declaring the ball unplayable and incur a penalty stroke (Rule 28).

Equally, the player must also prove that the stroke he or she is intending to play is not abnormal. Sometimes it is necessary to play a stroke that is not the norm for the player. For example, a right-handed player would have to try to play left-handed or that the player would have to chip out to the side to avoid the tree. None of these actions would be considered abnormal when a tree interferes with a stroke. But in a situation where there was no need to play left-handed or out to the side and the player wished to do this so that relief could be gained from a rabbit scrape, this would be considered an abnormal stroke. Again, the abnormal direction of play, stance or swing cannot be used as an excuse to get free relief for a ball that is essentially unplayable.

In your situation, as it is possible to make a stroke, albeit at 90 degrees to avoid the tree, and the rabbit scrape interferes for this sideways stroke, relief would be granted. The player would have to find the nearest point of relief for the sideways stroke and drop the ball as required in Rule 25-1b(i). As a result of the relief, the tree may still interfere with the player’s stance or swing for the stroke.

Decisions 25-1b/20, 25-1b/21 and 25-1b/22 are also useful in connection with this rule and can be found in our decisions application, the Rules Explorer, online (

I hope that this is of help to clarify the rule.

Shona McRae is The R&A’s Manager – Rules of Golf

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 30, 2011 16:33
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  1. Keenie March 12, 06:57

    When taking relief from a animal scrape, do you get relief from the tree you are behind?

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  2. Karl February 27, 12:31

    If the player’s ball is ‘unplayable’ in terms of hitting towards the green from this situation due to the tree. He aims sideways and makes the case that an Abnormal Gorund Condition is preventing him from making this 90 degree shot. If that relief is taken, can he ‘change his mind’ and opt to aim towards the green as due to the relief taken he can now see the green even though that was not the case from his original lie. I know that it is not the spirit of the rule but would this be permissible?

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    • Jrfb July 23, 16:21

      There is no relief as in any case a rabbit scrape is not a “hole made by a burrowing animal”
      You will not find any mention of a “rabbit scrape” in the rules, although it is often wrongly mentioned in inaccurate explanations of the official rules.

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