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Decisions on the Rules of Golf

Every year players face situations where the actions proscribed by the rules of golf may not be clear. In these cases, players may make a claim to the referee or local committee. In some cases, where the local committee cannot come to a decision, they can petition the USGA rules committee which will make a final ruling. Some rules, such as what to do when a ball goes into a burrowing hole in a bunker and ends up beneath the green, are rare occurences. Others have direct bearing on everyday play. We have brought you a few of the latter below, and hope they help inform your everyday decisions on the golf course.

Q. Moving the Flag: A player (B) removes the flagstick, places it on the putting green behind the hole and putts. A second player (A), believing that player Bs ball will strike the flagstick, picks up the flagstick, allowing player Bs ball to roll beyond where the flagstick had been placed. What is the ruling?

A. This rule was actually changed in 2008. From 2008 onwards, Rule 24-1 now specifically allows equipment of the players and the flagstick when attended, removed or held up to be moved when a ball is in motion even if doing so could influence the movement of a ball. However, Other objects including loose impediments, other movable obstructions or golf balls that have not been lifted prior to the stroke may not be moved when a ball is in motion if doing so could influence the movement of a ball in motion. Before 2008, the flagstick and equipment were treated as other immovable obstructions and in match play, player A would lose the hole for removing an obstruction which might influence the movement of the ball while the player's ball was in motion.

Q. Loose Impediments: If part of a large branch which has fallen from a tree (and thus is a loose impediment) interferes with a player's swing, may the player break off the interfering part rather than move the whole branch?

A. Yes.

Q. Overflow from Water Hazard: If a pond (water hazard) has overflowed, is the overflow casual water?

A. Yes. Any overflow of water from a water hazard which is outside the margin of the hazard is casual water.

Q. Bunker Sand: If sand spills over the margin of a bunker, is the sand a part of the bunker?

A. No.

Q. Improving Line of Play: A fence which is not a boundary fence does not interfere with a players swing but it is on his/her line of play. May the player remove a part of the fence, which is readily movable, in order to improve his/her line of play?

A. No. A fence is an immovable obstruction and thus is something fixed. If a player removes a part of something fixed and in so doing improves his/her line of play, s/he is in breach of the rules.

Q.Parked Car: A player's ball lies under a parked car. What is the procedure?

A. If the car is readily movable, it should be treated as a movable obstruction and moved. If the car is not readily movable, it should be treated as an immovable obstruction and the player is entitled to relief.

Q. Mental Interference: A players ball lies several inches to the side of a sprinkler head. The sprinkler head does not physically interfere with the players stance or the area of her/his intended swing. However, the sprinkler head bothers the player mentally. Is the player entitled to relief?

A. A. No.

For More Information
If you would like hear more about certain decision topics, plead send us and email with your request. For further details on the decisions on the rules of golf, visit the Official USGA Web Site. The above article is meant to help clarify some of the basics above the rules of golf, however please note that decisions on the rules do change (see our flagstick example above). If the above comes into conflict with local rules or the USGA, the latter two should always be taken as correct.

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