Sunday, 25 March 2012

Fairly Taking a Stance - Rule 13-2

I am sure that most of us have been faced with a situation where we find our ball lying in an area of thick undergrowth, under the low-hanging branches of a tree or a bush. Rule 13-2 tells us that we must not improve the area of our intended stance or swing by moving, bending or breaking anything growing, but that no penalty is incurred if we do so in fairly taking a stance. Some players query exactly what this exception, ‘fairly taking a stance’ means.

I am not a fan of the hackneyed script in this USGA produced video with Annika Sörenstam, but it does help clarify the Rule.

If you are receiving this blog by email and cannot view the video click here.

So, when ‘fairly taking their stance’ the player is required to do so in the least intrusive manner that results in the minimum improvement in the position or lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. Decision 13-2/1 provides a more detailed explanation of how to interpret ‘fairly’ in this context;
Without "fairly," the exception would permit improvement of position or lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play by anything that could be said to be taking a stance. The use of "fairly" is intended to limit the player to what is reasonably necessary to take a stance for the selected stroke without unduly improving the position of the ball, his lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. Thus, in taking his stance for the selected stroke, the player should select the least intrusive course of action which results in the minimum improvement in the position or lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing or line of play. The player is not entitled to a normal stance or swing. He must accommodate the situation in which the ball is found and take a stance as normal as the circumstances permit. What is fair must be determined in the light of all the circumstances.

Examples of actions which do constitute fairly taking a stance are:
• backing into a branch or young sapling if that is the only way to take a stance for the selected stroke, even if this causes the branch to move out of the way or the sapling to bend or break.
• bending a branch of a tree with the hands in order to get under the tree to play a ball.

Examples of actions which do not constitute fairly taking a stance are:
• deliberately moving, bending or breaking branches with the hands, a leg or the body to get them out of the way of the backswing or stroke.
• standing on a branch to prevent it interfering with the backswing or stroke.
• hooking one branch on another or braiding two weeds for the same purpose.
• bending with a hand a branch obscuring the ball after the stance has been taken.
• bending an interfering branch with the hands, a leg or the body in taking a stance when the stance could have been taken without bending the branch.
Now, permit me to draw your attention to my new web site,, where I have attempted to provide an indispensable resource for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. In particular, check out how to obtain the all 99 issues of my photo series and my brand new, carefully devised quizzes; Juniors Quiz, General Quiz (for Club and Society golfers) and Match Play Quiz (highlighting the Rules differences in match play golf).

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.


Kevin Hurley said...

Hi Barry-If you are able to, please review CBS's video of Lee Westwood's 2nd shot on hole #18 during yesterday's final round at the Masters. It appears to me that he "Un"fairly took a stance by kicking the pine straw away twice with each foot

Barry Rhodes said...


When I saw Westwood kicking away the pine needles under his feet I commented that I hoped that there was no loose soil under them! However, I do not think that a penalty was incurred. The pine needles are loose impediments and Decision 23-1/1 clarifies that loose impediments may be removed by any means. In my opinion, he was fairly placing his feet firmly in taking his stance, to avoid slipping, and was not building a stance.


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,

I have two questions on this rule, one I think is simple and one maybe not so. I suspect they may be covered by the decision on the meaning of "improve" but bow to your knowledge.

1) The player's ball is in the trees and he's making his way into position to play out. He casually, or for balance as he's stepping, puts his hand out onto the trunk of a large tree before he takes his stance or hits the shot, and bits of bark/pine needles/resin etc stick to his hand - does this count as "moving, bending or breaking anything growing" as per the rule, or is it just one of those things that's fine because the lie/stance/line of play hasn't been improved ?

2) A players ball is in the rough (not too long, just off the fairway) and there's a small pile of old cut grass about 12 inches behind the ball. Its just whats left behind by the mower and is clearly brown/grey and dead. Anyway when the player moved this dead grass away he feels he may (but isn't sure) have inadvertently broken off some live strands of grass too. It could just as easily been the way dead grass can intertwine with growing grass. Would this be considered a breach or would it be a bit like breaking off a few leaves out of many, versus breaking off the only leaf on the tree ?

Thanks very much !

Barry Rhodes said...


1. No. This part of Decision 13-2/0.5 is relevant;

In the context of Rule 13-2, "improve" means to change for the better so that the player creates a potential advantage with respect to the position or lie of his ball, the area of his intended stance or swing, his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or the area in which he is to drop or place a ball. Therefore, merely changing an area protected by Rule 13-2 will not be a breach of Rule 13-2 unless it creates such a potential advantage for the player in his play.

2. Same reference as above. A penalty is only incurred if the player gains a potential advantage from the action of breaking the grass, which seems highly unlikely in the circumstance that you describe.