Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Autumn Leaves and Golf Balls

Autumn (fall) has arrived in the northern hemisphere and with it the seasonal problems resulting from falling leaves. I am certain that in my part of the world more golf balls will be lost in the next few weeks than any other period of the year, some of them even on the fairways, because they are hidden under leaves. I thought that it would be opportune to clarify some Rules relating to leaves on the course.

Leaves are loose impediments, providing they are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or adhering to the ball (Definition of Loose Impediments).

Photo a): Except when both the leaf and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any leaf or leaves may be removed by any means, without penalty, Rule 23-1.

Photo b): A leaf that is resting against a ball may be removed, as above.

Photo c): A leaf that is adhering to a ball is not a loose impediment and may not be removed, Definition of Loose Impediment.

Photo d): (Edited 18th October 2013) A leaf that is lying under a ball should be left as it is. It is unlikely that the leaf could be removed without causing the ball to move, which would incur a penalty of one stroke, even if it only moved one dimple from its spot.

Note that if a player’s ball lies on the putting green they do not incur a penalty if they cause their ball to move while they are removing a leaf (or any loose impediment) and the ball must be replaced. However, if they cause their ball to move while removing a leaf when their ball is not on a putting green they incur a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced, Rule 18-2a.

On the subject of leaves, I am regularly asked whether a player automatically incurs a penalty if they accidentally knock down a leaf or leaves from a tree during a practice swing. A definitive answer to this question does depend on the circumstances, but in the majority of cases no penalty is incurred, providing there are still leaves or branches remaining, so that the area of intended swing has not been materially affected. There is more on this subject at this blog of mine and it is covered in Decision 13-2/0.5.

Good golfing,


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