On this episode of The Rules of Golf, host Martyn Woodhouse covers the principles and rules governing things “unfair”. What exactly qualifies as a loose impediment, and how are those encounters governed by the Rules of Golf? You may have known (I didn’t) before this lesson that loose impediments in hazards are governed differently than those encountered elsewhere such as in the fairways, rough,and greens. But did you know that certain loose impediments encountered in a bunkers are governed differently than the same loose impediment encountered in a water hazard? How about obstructions? Obstructions encountered out of bounds are governed differently that obstruction encountered elsewhere. Who knew? When does a loose impediment become and obstruction? Well, that’s really not as scary as it sounds. The USGA explains: Loose impediments may be transformed into obstructions through processes of construction or manufacturing. For example, a log (loose impediment) that has been split and had legs attached has been changed by construction into a bench (obstruction); or a piece of wood (loose impediment) becomes an obstruction when manufactured into a charcoal briquette.

Martyn, of course, has all the answers to these and other circumstances, their (possible) exceptions, definitions, and more on The Rules of Golf With Martyn Woodhouse.

The Rules of Golf Rule 23-1 Defines Relief for Encounters with Loose Impediments

23-1. Relief

Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty.

If the ball lies anywhere other than on the putting green and the removal of a loose impediment by the player causes the ball to move, Rule 18-2a applies.

On the putting green, if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of the player removing a loose impediment, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the removal of the loose impediment. Otherwise, if the player causes the ball to move, he incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a.

When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.

Note: If the ball lies in a hazard, the player must not touch or move any loose impediment lying in or touching the same hazard – see Rule 13-4c.
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