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Impediments and Obstructions I

You pick up rocks, wipe away dew, and shoo away bugs. Are all of those actions legal? Below we define the difference between impediments and obstructions, and explain where you get relief, and where you don't.
  • Impediments are natural objects such as stones, leaves, branches, and insects.

  • Obstructions are anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths (with the exception of objects that are out of bounds or define the out of bounds, like a fence).
Both impediments and obstructions can be broken into those that can be moved (i.e. loose impediments and moveable obstructions) and those that cannot. All four categories are handled separately in golf - we discuss Impediments below.

Loose Impediments

Impediments are considered "Loose" if they are not fixed or growing, are not solidly embedded and do not adhere to the ball. Dead fallen branches are considered Loose Impediments, unless they are still attached to the plant. Ants and other bugs are also considered Loose Impediments. Sand and loose soil are loose impediments only on the green. Compacted soil (like aeration plugs) are loose impediments. Dew and frost are not loose impediments (which have important implications). For those up north, snow and natural ice can be considered either as loose impediments or as casual water.

Impediements Examples

Loose impediments can be removed without penalty unless the impediment and the ball lie in the same hazard (sand, water, or other) or the ball is in motion. The ball must not move when you remove a loose impediment.

If you remove an impediment that is not loose, or move a loose impediment in a hazard, or if your ball moves while you are removing a loose impediment, the result is a two stroke penalty (or loss of hole in match play).

To be continued...

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