Sunday, 28 February 2010

Questions on Loose Impediments

P.S. The item with the cross over it is an embedded rock, from which there is no relief.

A few questions that I have received concerning loose impediments:

Are you permitted to move a loose rock lying inside a water hazard that interferes with your intended swing when your ball lies just outside of that hazard?
Yes, except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty, providing the removal of the loose impediment does not cause your ball in play to move, Rule 23-1.

If your ball lies on the edge of water inside a water hazard are you permitted to kick aside stones to improve your stance?
No, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a water hazard you must not touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching that hazard, Rule 13-4c. Read how Aaron Baddeley disqualified himself from a PGA tour event last year when he realised that he had broken this Rule.

Can you break off part of a large branch of a tree that has fallen off in a storm and is interfering with your intended area of swing?
Yes, if the branch is detached from the tree and is too big to move, you may simply break off part of the branch and play away, Decision 23-1/4. You may also obtain assistance to remove any large loose impediment, Decision 23-1/3.

Am I permitted to remove clumps of sand from the apron of the putting green when they are in my line of putt?
No, sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere, Definition of Loose Impediments.

Could you clarify if grass cuttings are considered to be loose impediments? I believe they are not when adhering to the ball.
This is correct; anything adhering to a ball is not a loose impediment. Grass cuttings piled for removal may be treated as ground under repair and grass cuttings not intended to be removed are loose impediments and may be brushed or moved from the line of play, except when they lie in the same hazard as the ball, Rule 23-1, Definitions of Loose Impediments and Ground Under Repair.

Do you have to pick-up loose impediments or can you brush them away with your hand?
Loose impediments may be moved by any means, except that, in removing loose impediments on the line of putt, the player must not press anything down. Decision 23-1/1.

Finally, keep in mind that loose impediments are natural objects (i.e. not artificial) that are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or adhering to the ball.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

P.S. My thanks to all of you who have emailed compliments to me about my weekly blogs and also to those who have forwarded the link to others who may be interested. It pleases me greatly to know that others are benefiting from my efforts.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Measuring Club-lengths

Often when I write a blog on one issue it leads naturally into another. Since last week’s blog I have received several comments and questions on how to correctly measure club-lengths in different circumstances. Here are some graphics that I think will help you understand the concepts (with acknowledgements to

From this last example you will see that when the ball lies on ground it is not permitted to measure horizontally across different levels. If the ball is on the top level you may either measure to the edge of the wall, down the wall and along the ground at the lower level, or to the wall and directly over it as in the 5th illustration.

However, if a ball lies off the ground (e.g. in a tree) then you may measure the club-lengths from the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in the tree.

(Edit: Decision 20-2b/2 was revised at 1st January 2012 with the following wording, "However, a player may not measure through a natural undulation of the ground.")

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Drop Within One or Two Club-lengths?


Here is a good question that I received from a fellow countryman this week;
“Is there an easy way to remember when one club-length or two club-lengths are allowed when dropping the ball?”
And here is my short, easy to remember, answer;
“When you take free relief under the Rules, e.g. from an immovable obstruction, casual water, GUR, wrong putting green, or a staked tee (when there is a Local Rule), you must drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole.

Whereas, when you are taking a penalty drop, e.g. from a lie you deem unplayable, or a lateral water hazard, then you are permitted to drop anywhere within two club-lengths of where the ball was at rest, for an unplayable lie, or from where the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, not nearer the hole."
The above covers most of the instances that golfers will come across, but for accuracy here is a listing of references to club-lengths in the Rules of Golf:

One club-length
  • Rule 20-3b: Except in a hazard, if the original lie of a ball to be placed or replaced has been altered the ball must be placed in the nearest lie most similar to the original lie that is not more than one club-length from the original lie, not nearer the hole and not in a hazard.
  • Rule 24-2b: Nearest point of relief from immovable obstructions.
  • Rule 25-1b: Nearest point of relief from abnormal ground conditions
  • Appendix l, Part B, 2b, lll (a): Nearest point of relief from environmentally-sensitive areas.
Note: In each of the three above situations the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.
  • Rule 25-3b: If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must take relief, without penalty by lifting the ball and dropping it within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.
Two club-lengths
  • Definition of teeing ground: The teeing ground is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth.
  • Rule 20-2c(vi): A drop is invalid and the ball must be dropped again if it rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course.
  • Rule 26-1c: In taking relief from a lateral water hazard, under penalty of one stroke, the player may drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.
  • Rule 28c: One of the options for an unplayable ball, under penalty of one stroke, is to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
  • Appendix l, Part A, 5.d: A Local Rule may give relief without penalty from the intervention of immovable obstructions (e.g. sprinklers) on or within two club-lengths of putting green, when the ball lies within two club-lengths of the immovable obstruction.
So, how long is a club-length? The answer is that it can be the length of the longest club that you are carrying in your bag, which typically is a driver. However, there is nothing in the Rules that says that you must use the club to accurately measure the distance. Providing it is obvious that you have dropped the ball within the required area, the drop is valid and the ball is in play if it comes to rest within two club-lengths of where it first hit the course, not nearer the hole than where it was originally at rest. If you do carry a long-handled putter in your bag there is nothing in the Rules that specifically prohibits using it to measure club-lengths, but I urge you not to do so, as it is very much against the spirit of the game. To my knowledge no professional on the major tours has ever used a long-handled putter for measuring in competition play.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Please forward the link to this blog to anyone that you think may be interested. You can receive notice of my blog entries by email if you enter your email address in the box at the top right of this web page.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Has Phil Mickelson Been Bending the Groove Rules?

Until now I have refrained from getting embroiled in the raging debate as whether professionals should be using the 20-year-old Ping Eye 2 wedges, or not. If you don’t know what I am referring to then I recommend that you Google “Phil Mickelson and Ping Eye 2” for several thousand opinions on the matter. The reason that I have been avoiding the subject is that the Rule is irrelevant to all amateur and most professional golfers. Unless you are an elite level professional golfer playing on one of the tours, where the Rules of Competition enforce the use of the new groove and punch mark specifications, you will not be affected for many years. In fact, all pre 2010 conforming clubs will continue to conform to the Rules of Golf until at least 2024 for you, me and the vast majority of golfers (probably more than 99.9%).

I am breaking my silence because today I came across a report of a press conference with Padraig Harrington, at which he talked about his views on this issue. For me, his opinions are the most lucid and sensible that I have read. I strongly recommend that you read this entry on the IrishGolfDesk.

Here are two representative comments that I particularly like;
"As regards what I feel about whether it's right or not, I don't know what the direct comments were by Scott McCarron, but I think most of us were brought up that you've got to adhere strictly by the Rules, and whatever those rules are in place, you've got to play by them. "We've all played in our career where we've hit it on the cart path and got a drop, and that drop has been substantially to our advantage, and that's the nature of the game. Other times you get a drop and it's... the Rules are substantially against you.

"You know, it swings and roundabouts in that sense, that you can't... you have to play exactly by them. You can't necessarily... the interpretation of them, that leads to problems and has led to problems over the years, so that's why we stick by it."

Later in the interview he went on to say;
"It's interesting. Because of the fact, because of the way we govern ourselves when we play golf; we strenuously stick to the Rules. You have to. That is the whole idea, you have to stick to the Rules. It has to be black and white, it really does, and the problem here is that it is black and white, that it is legal. So that means there has to be something else done about it. What can be done, because it was a Supreme Court ruling, wasn't it? Is it Supreme Court? It's not like the PGA Tour, you know. Who do we think we are if we can overrule the Supreme Court.”
Thanks Padraig, you’re an Irish gentleman and a scholar to boot.

Barry Rhodes

Author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, written to help you learn the Rules the easy way.