Rules of Golf Review: Do aeration holes let me off the hook?
Rules of Golf Review: Do aeration holes let me off the hook? © Images AGN

It’s spring, which means that among other things, the person in charge of your golf course is probably trying to get it ready for the busy summer months. During this time of change, you’ll probably have to putt through top-dressing sand, deal with bare lies, and, worst of all, get your ball past thousands of drainage holes.

You might think that ventilation holes should be treated like ground that is being fixed, so that if your ball gets stuck in one, you can move it. Sorry. Not so.

Aeration holes are a normal part of a golf course, according to the Rules of Golf. In particular, they are not “holes made by the maintenance staff,” so they are not “ground under repair.”

That means you can’t fix them on the green or anywhere else on the course, and you also can’t get rid of them. If you play from the wrong spot after moving the ball out of an aeration hole or use your divot tool to fix a hole on your putting line, you will get a general penalty of two strokes or lose the hole in match play.

Rules of Golf Review Do aeration holes let me off the hook. © Images AGN

This may seem very unfair, especially when these holes ruin a shot that would have been good otherwise. So, what should we do? Model Local Rule E-4 says that a group can give relief by using a local rule. If this local rule is in force, you can get free relief if your ball is in or touches an aeration hole in the general area or on the putting green. This comfort does not cover any holes that get in the way of your stance or your line of play.

If you’re just having a friendly match with your friends, you might decide to be your own “committee” and put the MLR in place (we won’t tell anyone).

Phil Cuffare, the groundskeeper at Oakland Hills Country Club, has a great reason for why golf courses make holes in the grass.

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