It’s winter, which means your golf-course superintendent is probably not in coring-greens mode just yet, but before long it will be time to pretty up his or her place for the prime summer months. During this transitional period, you’ll probably have to putt through top-dressing sand, deal with bare lies and, the worst, navigate your ball past thousands of aeration holes.

It might occur to you that aeration holes should be treated as ground under repair, meaning you can move your ball if it gets stuck in one. Sorry. Not so.

The Rules of Golf says aeration holes are a normal part of golf-course conditions. Specifically, they “do not fall within the meaning of a hole made by the maintenance staff, and thus are not ground under repair”.

What that translates to is that you can’t repair them on the green (or anywhere else on the course) and you can’t take relief from them. If you play from the wrong place after moving the ball out of an aeration hole, or use your divot tool to repair one on your putting line, it’s officially a two-stroke penalty or loss of hole in matchplay (general penalty).

This might seem really unfair, especially when these holes negatively effect what would otherwise be a good shot. So what can be done? A committee may choose to use a local rule to give relief (Model Local Rule E-4). If this local rule is in effect, you may take free relief when your ball lies in or touches an aeration hole in the general area or on the putting green. That relief does not apply to any holes that interfere with your stance or line of play.

Meanwhile, if you’re just playing a friendly match with your friends, you might decide you are your own “committee” and put the MLR in place, too (we won’t tell anybody).

If you’re unsure as to why golf courses punch holes in the turf, here’s a great explanation from Oakland Hills Country Club superintendent Phil Cuffare.


What does ‘known or virtually certain’ really mean?

Do you have to use a putter on the green?

You’re playing a Srixon. Two holes later it’s a Callaway. Is switching golf balls mid-round allowed?

I hit a horrible shot. I’m waaaaaay better off if I don’t find the ball. Can I just declare it lost?

I’m on the green, my opponent is not. Who’s away?

Is sneaking a peek in another player’s bag considered getting advice?

What do I do if my golf ball is stuck in a tree?

I conceded a putt. My opponent putted anyway and missed. Is that a penalty?

What is casual water and how do I play around it?

I thought my ball was lost and put another in play then found my first ball… which ball counts?

What happens if I can’t tell my provisional ball from my original?

What exactly is an embedded ball?

How do I find my ‘nearest point of relief’?

How long can I take to hit a shot?

Does a ball have to be unplayable to declare it unplayable?