New Rule 16,2 tells us we don’t have to play a ball located next to a mountain lion and her two cubs. Fine — who needed a Rule to tell us that? Well, what the Rule really spells out is how you may take free relief… most of the time, from “dangerous” situations.

The relevant Rule (16.2, called “Dangerous Animal Condition”) reads:

a. When Relief Is Allowed
A “dangerous animal condition” exists when a dangerous animal (such as poisonous snakes, stinging bees, alligators, fire ants or bears) near a ball could cause serious physical injury to the player if he or she had to play the ball as it lies.

A player may take relief under Rule 16.2b from interference by a dangerous animal condition no matter where his or her ball is on the course, except that relief is not allowed:

  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than the dangerous animal condition (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because the player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

The “free relief” part is easy if your ball is either in the general area or on the putting green. Find the nearest point of complete relief not nearer the hole and drop (or place on the putting green) in the one club-length relief area.

That leaves us with two other places dangerous animals might be. What kind of relief is there in a bunker or penalty area?

In a bunker or penalty area, we may take free relief by dropping in the same bunker or penalty area. If that isn’t going to work to drop in the bunker, we may take back-on-the-line relief outside the bunker at the cost of one penalty stroke. If dropping for free in the penalty area won’t work then all of your penalty area options, each costing one penalty stroke, are there.

There is some fine print. If it’s not reasonable to play the ball, for example your ball is stuck up in the tree under which the mountain lion and her cubs are sitting . . . you do not get free relief. (See R16.2a.) And, sadly, you don’t get free relief from poison ivy or a cactus. (See Interpretation 16.2a/1.)

Lastly, I don’t know if a skunk is a dangerous animal, but if someone wishes to ask the USGA they may email them at

My hunch is no…