Most golfers assume that they may take relief from young trees that are staked. Whilst this is often the case, it is only true when there is a Local Rule affording relief. The Rules of Golf do not provide relief from staked trees. Obviously, the reason that most Committees introduce a Local Rule is to protect those trees that have been newly planted, but you cannot take this for granted; you must study the Local Rules in operation before commencing a round of golf.
Here is a short summary of the various situations that may apply regarding young trees on the golf course;
1. A Local Rule requires mandatory relief from staked trees.
This is self-explanatory, you must take relief if any part of the tree interferes with the lie of their ball, their stance or the area of their intended swing. Read the Local Rule carefully to ensure that you are taking proper relief.2. No Local Rule regarding staked trees.
The player does not get relief from the tree, but if there is an artificial stake that supports, or did support the tree, this is an immovable obstruction, from which relief is available under Rule 24-2.3. Occasionally, there may be a Local Rule that says that there is no relief from staked trees and that any stakes supporting them are integral to the course
No relief is available from either the tree or the stake.A point that I have made here before, which surprises many seasoned golfers, is that if there is a Local Rule making it mandatory to take relief from staked trees and the player touches any part of the tree, even a single leaf on the outermost branch, with their body or club during their next stroke, they incur the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, for not properly taking relief. This applies whether they took relief or not, as the Rules require you to take complete relief from any interference by the tree when there is a Local Rule requiring you to do so.
When Committees decide that they do want to protect young trees on the course I strongly recommend that they strictly follow the specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 3, so as to avoid confusion. You may be interested in reading this blog item of mine from nearly four years ago, where I point out confusing deficiencies in the Local Rules for Staked Trees in three neighbouring Clubs in the South East of Ireland (please note that they may since have updated their Local Rules in this respect).
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