13-1. General

The ball must be played as it lies, except as otherwise provided in the Rules.

13-2. Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play

A player must not improve or allow to be improved:
• 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, by any of the following actions:
• pressing a club on the ground,
• moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed (including immovable obstructions and objects defining out of bounds),
• creating or eliminating irregularities of surface,
• removing or pressing down sand, loose soil, replaced divots or other cut turf placed in position, or
• removing dew, frost or water.

However, the player incurs no penalty if the action occurs:
• in grounding the club lightly when addressing the ball,
• in fairly taking his stance,
• in making a stroke or the backward movement of his club for a stroke and the stroke is made,
• in creating or eliminating irregularities of surface within the teeing ground or in removing dew, frost or water from the teeing ground, or
• on the putting green in removing sand and loose soil or in re pairing damage.

(Rule 16-1)

There are 2 parts of this Rule which are broken frequently

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An immovable obstruction is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice, except:

  1. Objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes & railings;
  2. Any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds; and
  3. Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.

Below are some examples of immovable objects you will find around our course.

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Interference by an immovable obstruction occurs when a ball lies in or on the obstruction, or when the obstruction interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing. If the player’s ball lies on the putting green, interference also occurs if an immovable obstruction on the putting green intervenes on his line of putt. Otherwise, intervention on the line of play is NOT, of itself, interference under this Rule.

Except when the ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, a player may take relief from interference by an immovable as per Rule 24-2b

Check out the pictures below

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In Figure 2, a player is entitled to relief from the screen. The red X marks his nearest point of relief; from here he is allowed to drop within one club length of point X without penalty.

Note NO relief is available from the hoops in front of where the ball was dropped

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In Figure 1, a ball lies three meters from the screen blocking the way to the flagstick. In this instance since the player’s swing of stance is not impeded the player is not entitled to relief.

The rules of golf are there to help us, but to use them to your advantage you need to know and understand them. The R & A website www.randa.org is a great place to start brushing up on your knowledge.

Another way is to try the interactive rules quiz on the R & A website, click the link below to start the quiz. http://www.randa.org/en/Rules-and-Amateur-Status/Rules-Quiz.aspx.

Apparently I confused some people last week with the Rule on the difference between a Movable Obstruction & a Loose Impediment. It really is quite simple, if your ball comes to rest in a hazard next to a loose impediment, you CANNOT touch or move that loose impediment, if the ball comes to rest next to a Movable Obstruction you CAN move the obstruction. The diagram below describes Movable Obstructions and Loose Impediments.

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To understand the Rules better, read the Definitions on page 22 of your Rule Book. The definitions give you a better understanding of the situation you find yourself in.

The definition of Loose Impediments is:

Loose Impediments

“Loose impediments” are natural objects, including:

  • stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like,
  • dung, and
  • worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them, provided they are not:
  • fixed or growing,
  • solidly embedded, or
  • adhering to the ball.

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.

Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

An “obstruction” is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice, except:

a. Objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings;

b. Any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds; and

c. Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.

An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise it is an immovable obstruction.

So, next time you are unsure whether the object is a Loose Impediment or a Movable Obstruction, ask yourself one simple question, is the object natural or artificial.

We have had a couple of instances lately where players have been penalised for incorrectly playing provisional balls. The provisional ball rule is in the rules, basically to enable the pace of play to proceed without delay in the case where the original ball is going to be difficult to find. The main thing to remember is if you find the original ball you MUST abandon the provisional ball unless the original is out of bounds, just because you do not like the look of the position of the original ball does not mean you can pick it up and continue with the provisional. Below is an extract from the rules relating to Provisional Ball.

27-2. Provisional Ball

a. Procedure

If a ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally in accordance with Rule 27-1. The player must inform his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play that he intends to play a provisional ball, and he must play it before he or his partner goes forward to search for the original ball.

If he fails to do so and plays another ball, that ball is not a provisional ball and becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1); the original ball is lost. (Order of play from teeing ground – see Rule 10-3)

Note: If a provisional ball played under Rule 27-2a might be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, the player may play another provisional ball. If another provisional ball is played, it bears the same relationship to the previous provisional ball as the first provisional ball bears to the original ball.

b. When Provisional Ball Becomes Ball in Play
The player may play a provisional ball until he reaches the place where the original ball is likely to be. If he makes a stroke with the provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place, the original ball is lost and the provisional ball becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1). If the original ball is lost outside a water hazard or is out of bounds, the provisional ball becomes the ball in play, under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1).

Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the original ball, that has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (Rule 18-1), or is in an obstruction (Rule 24-3) or an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1c), the player may proceed under the applicable Rule.

c. When Provisional Ball to be Abandoned
If the original ball is neither lost nor out of bounds, the player must abandon the provisional ball and continue playing the original ball. If it is known or virtually certain that the original ball is in a water hazard, the player may proceed in accordance with Rule 26-1. In either situation, if the player makes any further strokes at the provisional ball, he is playing a wrong ball and the provisions of Rule 15-3 apply.

Note: I f a player plays a provisional ball under Rule 27-2a, the strokes made after this Rule has been invoked with a provisional ball subsequently abandoned under Rule 27-2c and penalties incurred solely by playing that ball are disregarded.

On 1st Jan 2012 a few Rule changes came into effect. One of these changes involved raking a bunker before you played your shot out of that bunker. There is still a bit confusion out there as to how the rule works. Rule 13 states:

13-4. Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions

Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not:

a. Test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard;

b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club; or
c. Touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard.

Exceptions:

1. Provided nothing is done that constitutes testing the condition of the hazard or improves the lie of the ball, there is no penalty if the player

(a) touches the ground or loose impediments in any hazard or water in a water hazard as a result of or to prevent falling, in removing an obstruction, in measuring or in marking the position of, retrieving, lifting, placing or replacing

ball under any Rule or (b) places his clubs in a hazard.

2. At any time, the player may smooth sand or soil in a hazard provided this is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to breach Rule 13-2 with respect to his next stroke. If a ball played from a hazard is outside the hazard after the stroke, the player may smooth sand or soil in the hazard without restriction.

3. I f the player makes a stroke from a hazard and the ball comes to rest in another hazard, Rule 13-4a does not apply to any subsequent actions taken in the hazard from which the stroke was made.

Note: At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE:

Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.

So, what does it all mean.

Under the old rule, if your ball was at the front of the bunker and the rake was at the back, you were entitled to go into the bunker and pick up the rake, but you had to play your shot before raking your footprint caused by going into the bunker to start with to retrieve the rake. What this did was:

Delay play unnecessarily

Most people could not be bothered going back and simply did not rake the footprints

Under the new rule, you are allowed to rake your footprints as you leave the bunker, providing nothing is done to improve the lie of the ball, the area of the intended stance or intended swing or line of play for the next stroke and it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course.

This means that providing the rake is well clear and behind your ball you can rake the footprints as you leave the bunker, but beware if the rake lies between you ball and the flag you cannot rake any footprints caused by you retrieving the rake as you would be deemed to have improved your line of play for your next stroke.

Q. What happens if you go into the bunker, get the rake and rake your footprints then play your ball out the bunker and the ball hits a tree in front of you comes back over your head and lands in the area that you raked earlier. Dose this constitute improving the lie of your ball?

A. NO, because the earlier action of caring for the course did not constitute testing the surface of the hazard, you cannot be penalised for such a strange occurrence.

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r1How often have you seen this? Some inconsiderate player who either doesn’t know how to replace a rake in a bunker or simply doesn’t care as they are no longer in there. In this picture when you move the rake, chances are the ball will stay where it is as the sand is soft. If the ball does move, under the rules you are required to replace the ball without penalty.

So what happens if the ball is on a slope and the sand is firm and when you replace the ball it rolls closer to the hole?

Under Rule 20-3d, if a ball will not come to rest on the spot where it originally lay, it must be placed at the nearest spot not nearer the hole where it can be placed at rest.

Q: What if it’s impossible to find a spot where your ball will come to rest, can you press it lightly into the sand to get it to stay there?

A: No, There is nothing in the Rules permitting a player to press his ball lightly into the sand or ground to make it remain at rest.

So what if the spot where the ball originally lay was farther from the hole than any other part of the bunker. Thus, there was nowhere to place the ball at rest in the bunker that was not nearer the hole.

In this case, since the player could not place the ball in conformity with the Rules, he should proceed under the stroke-and-distance option of the unplayable ball Rule (Rule 28a) or, in equity (Rule 1-4), drop the ball, under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker, keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped.

Doesn’t sound fair, does it. So next time you’re leaving a bunker spare a thought for the next person to play out the bunker and think how you would feel if, instead of playing from the middle of the bunker you were forced to take a penalty and drop outside the bunker.

REMEMBER

Replace the rake in the middle of the bunker pointing in the direction of play.

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A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds.

So is this ball out of bounds.

A: Yes

When out of bounds is defined by reference to stakes or a fence or as being beyond stakes or a fence, the out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points at ground level of the stakes or fence posts (excluding angled supports).

Since the diameter of a golf ball (43mm)is smaller than the diameter of a standard fence post (60mm)if the ball comes to rest against the fence wire which is on the outside of the posts then the ball is out of bounds

Q: If you hit your approach shot over the green on the 10th hole and the ball comes to rest on the bridge, are you entitled to a free drop.

A: No, the ball is deemed to be in the water hazard because the margins of the water hazard are deemed to extend vertically upwards. The bridge is an immovable obstruction but there is no relief without penalty from an immovable obstruction when the ball lies in or touches a water hazard. If the ball is played from the bridge the player may ground his club.

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Q: If a Hazard Stake is affecting your swing or stance, Do You Get A Free Drop Away?

A: That depends if your ball has come to rest inside or outside the hazard. Have a look at the 2 pictures below. In picture 1 the ball is outside the hazard and the stake interferes with your intended line of swing, in this case you are entitled to a free drop.

In picture 2 the stake also interferes with your intended line of swing, but because your ball is in the hazard you are NOT entitled to a free drop.

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So why is this so, well under the Local Rules on the back of the scorecard

All stakes (except those defining out of bounds, with the exception of the stakes defining O.O.B on the R/H side of the 11th hole during play of the 5th & 8th holes) irrigation points, course distance markers, course indicator signs, roped off areas, metal hoops, metal stays on boundary fences, black & yellow posts defining concrete drains, concrete drain heads & the toilet block between the 15th green & 16th tee are classified as IMMOVABLE OBSTRUCTIONS. Relief under Rule 24.2b.

So the stake is an immovable Obstruction so you are allowed to drop away if it affects your swing or stance, but according to the Rules there is NO relief without penalty from an Immovable Obstructions when the ball lies in or touches a hazard, so the ball has to be played as it lies or take a penalty drop outside the hazard.

What about O.O.B Stakes. As per the local Rule, All stakes (except those defining out of bounds, with the exception of the stakes defining O.O.B on the R/H side of the 11th hole during play of the 5th & 8th holes) are classified as IMMOVABLE OBSTRUCTIONS. Relief under Rule 24.2b.

So put simply, while playing the 11th hole, if your ball is in bounds, but one of the O.O.B stake’s interferes with your swing or stance, you do NOT get a free drop as you must not improve your stance or intended line of swing by removing a boundary stake, as such a stake is deemed to be fixed, however if you are playing the 5th hole or the 8th hole and you overshoot the green and find an O.O.B stake interfering with your swing or stance, you are entitled to a free drop because the O.O.B stake’s are not in play for these holes.