Rules of Golf Quiz #9

Jim Ferree, PGA, Head Golf Professional

Answer to Rules Quiz #8

Arnold’s last shot went into a penalty area and before he dropped to put his ball back in play he
wants to clear out some pine straw and pinecones laying in the drop area before he drops. Rule
8 “Course Played as It Is Found” specifically covers this situation. The overall guiding principle is
golfers must “play the course as you find it” and 8.1 prohibits actions that improve conditions
affecting the stroke and specifically mentions the relief area where the player will drop or place
a ball. This implies a player must treat the drop area as sacred ground that should not be
groomed or improved before dropping a ball. But Rule 8 goes on to say that loose impediments
or removable obstructions are allowed to be moved by a player prior to dropping. Since
pinecones and straw are loose impediments Arnold is allowed to clear those items out before

There are 2 conditions that prohibit a player from removing a loose impediment. The first is
removing a loose impediment before replacing a ball that was lifted from anywhere except a
putting green. This is because if a ball is moved when a player moves a loose impediment the
player gets a 1 stroke penalty. By clearing out loose impediments while a ball is lifted, the
player is taking advantage of the ball not being there and avoiding a possible penalty by doing
so. For example, a player’s ball lies on some leaves and is interfering with another player’s
stroke so the player marks and lifts his ball to get it out of the way. After the other player hits
their shot and before he replaces his ball, if he clears off the leaves before replacing his ball he
would be avoiding the possible 1 stroke penalty for causing the ball to move since his ball
wasn’t even there and therefore would be improving the conditions for his next shot. If he did
this, by the Rules he would incur a 1 stroke penalty. The second exception on deliberately
removing a lose impediment is if it is done to affect a ball in motion.

Rules Quiz #9

William hit his tee shot way left where his ball ended up next to an out of bounds
stroke. The stake is going to interfere with the backswing of his next stroke, so William wants
to pull it up before he swings and replace it after his stroke. Do the Rules of Golf allow him to
do this?