Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (Rules 23-1 and 24-1)

It seems that many golfers are confused as to whether objects on the course are loose impediments or movable obstructions. This is an important distinction to make, as there are a number of relevant Rules where players could incur penalties if they get it wrong.

In fact, in most cases, the distinction should be easy enough. Loose Impediments are natural objects and movable obstructions are anything artificial that can be moved without unreasonable effort. Here is a sample list of some of the items that may be encountered on the golf course during a round;



Loose Impediments

(natural)

Movable Obstruction (artificial)

stones

bunker rakes

leaves

other players’ golf clubs

branches and twigs

stakes (except out of bounds)

pine cones

signage and ropes

dung and droppings

bottles and cans

insects

score cards

worms and their casts

pens and pencils

spiders and their webs

paper, tissues

half-eaten fruit

plastic bags

fruit skins

packets and boxes

ant hills

toys

dead birds and animals

match sticks or cigarettes

aeration plugs

abandoned balls

clods of earth

loose stones from a wall

gravel

wood manufactured into planks

crushed shells

cables

wood chips

doors or windows




























Be aware, that under the Rules sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere; snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player; and dew and frost are not loose impediments.

Some loose impediments may be transformed into obstructions through processes of construction or manufacturing. For example, a log (loose impediment) that has been split and has legs attached has been changed by construction into a bench (obstruction), or a piece of wood (loose impediment) becomes an obstruction when manufactured into a charcoal briquette. Also, there may be loose impediments that when placed together make up an obstruction. An example of this would be a manufactured path (immovable obstruction) made of wood chips. If a player’s ball lies on such a path and he chooses not to take relief then he may move any of the wood chips before making his stroke, providing that he does not move his ball in doing so,

Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in, or touch, the same bunker or water hazard, any loose impediment may be moved. But if the player causes their ball to move while removing the loose impediment, they are penalised one stroke and the ball must be replaced, unless the ball is on the putting green when there is no penalty.

Movable obstructions can be removed anywhere on the course, including when the ball lies in a hazard, and there is no penalty if the ball moves during the removal, but again it must be replaced where it was before it was moved. If the ball lies in or on the obstruction, the ball may be lifted and the obstruction removed. The ball must then be dropped, or on the putting green placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball lay in or on the obstruction, not nearer the hole.

As already mentioned, if a player’s ball lies in a bunker they are not permitted to remove any loose impediment from that bunker. However, very often there will be a Local Rule that says, “Stones in bunkers are movable obstructions”, because it is considered that the stones could represent a danger to players if they are hit during a stroke. This is a good illustration of why it is so important to read the Local Rules before commencing a round on an unfamiliar course. Whilst on the subject of bunkers, if a player cannot find their ball in a bunker because it is covered by sand, leaves or other loose impediments, they are permitted to probe or rake with a club or otherwise, as many loose impediments, or as much sand, as will enable them to see a part of their ball. When making a stroke out of a bunker, or water hazard, the player may not touch any loose impediment in that hazard before making their stroke, which commences with the downswing. So, for example, if a player brushes leaves in a bunker during their practice stroke or backswing they incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play.

I have only attempted to cover the more important matters in the Rules relating to loose impediments and movable obstructions in this short piece. I hope that I have been able to clarify the status of different objects for you, to assist you in making the correct decision on how to proceed with your round, if and when they come into play.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes
rules@barryrhodes.com

5 comments:

ptrdmdc said...

Barry
You mention that dew is not a loose impediment on the putting green.
A mate of mine alerted me to a situation where a player had marked a line of putt by laying a club on a dewy putting green.
I told him that I thought that this was a breach because you are not permitted to mark the surface of the putting green to indicate a line of putt.
It would also seem that by removing the dew by placement of the club that the dew is being treated as a loose impediment, which it is not.
Do you agree on both counts?

Barry Rhodes said...

ptrdmdc,

Yes, I agree that if the person lay down his club in order to mark his line of putt on the dew, or to clear away some dew on his line of putt than a penalty of two strokes would apply in stroke play. Only two penalty strokes would be incurred as two different Rules were breached by a single act). However, if he had laid down his club for some other reason and this act had incidentally left a mark on the putting green, then no penalty would have been incurred.

Barry

Stuart Kemp said...

Barry,
I've been playing for a number of years but have just recently taken an interest in learning a bit more about the rules.
At the Verizon Heritage in April 2010 Brian Davis lost in a playoff to Jim Furyk after calling a penalty on himself for "a violation of rule 13.4 against moving a loose impediment during a takeaway".
My confusion arises because rule 13.4 states "before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard". Davis was on the shore which I assume is just like being in the rough and not in a hazard.
So I would have thought the rule would not have applied.
You can read a report on the incident here: http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?id=5110442
Hope you can shed some light on this.
Thanks,
Stuart

Barry Rhodes said...

Stuart,

I remember the incident well. The area was indeed designated as a lateral water hazard and the penalty was incurred for moving a loose impediment (the dead palm frond) on the backswing of the stroke from the hazard. If you watch the video of the incident at this link you can clearly see a red stake designating the hazard at 1 min 57 sec.

Regards,

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Apologies, the link above does not work. Here it is in full;

http://www.aussiegolfer.net/2010/04/rules-of-golf-playing-from-hazard.html

You will have to cut and paste.

Barry