Is removing loose impediments, if they lie in front of or behind a ball, considered to be improving the lie?

A Second misconception:

Is removing loose impediments, if they lie in front of or behind a ball, considered to be improving the lie?

The answer is NO!

Under Rule 15.1, without penalty, loose impediments may be removed from anywhere on or off a course. They may be removed in any way, using a hand, foot, club or any equipment.

Under Rule 8.1 Player’s actions that improve conditions affecting the stroke does not apply to the removal of loose impediments or movable obstructions.

Loose impediments and movable obstructions (Rule 15.2) are not regarded as part of the challenge of playing a course. A player is, therefore, normally allowed to remove them when they interfere with play.

The only action a player must be careful of when removing loose impediments or obstructions close to his or her ball, anywhere off the putting green, is that the ball does not move while removing them, otherwise there will be a 1-stroke penalty, (Rule 9.4b) and the ball must be replaced on its original spot or estimated spot, Rule 14.2.

There are other issues to be mindful of when removing loose impediments, which relate to situations where a ball must be replaced or deliberately removing loose impediments or obstructions to affect a ball in motion. These are mentioned in the Rules below.

The relevant Rules 8.1, 15.1 and 15.2 are reproduced below:

Rule 8.1

Player’s Actions That Improve Conditions Affecting the Stroke

To support the principle of “play the course as you find it,” this Rule restricts what a player may do to improve any of these protected “conditions affecting the stroke” (anywhere on or off the course) for the next stroke the player will make:

  • The lie of the player’s ball at rest,
  • The area of the player’s intended stance,
  • The area of the player’s intended swing,
  • The player’s line of play, and
  • The relief area where the player will drop or place a ball.

This Rule applies to actions taken both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a.

It does not apply to:

  • The removal of loose impediments or movable obstructions, which is allowed to the extent provided in Rule 15, or
  • An action taken while a player’s ball is in motion, which is covered by Rule 11.

Rule 15.1:

Loose Impediments
a
Removal of Loose Impediment

Without penalty, a player may remove a loose impediment anywhere on or off the course, and may do so in any way (such as by using a hand or foot or a club or other equipment).

But there are two exceptions:

Exception 1 – Removing Loose Impediment Where Ball Must Be Replaced: Before replacing a ball that was lifted or moved from anywhere except the putting green:

  • A player must not deliberately remove a loose impediment that, if moved when the ball was at rest, would have been likely to have caused the ball to move.
  • If the player does so, he or she gets one penalty stroke, but the removed loose impediment does not need to be replaced.

This exception applies both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a. It does not apply to a loose impediment that is removed as a result of marking the spot of a ball, lifting or replacing a ball or causing a ball to move.

Exception 2 – Restrictions on Deliberately Removing Loose Impediments to Affect Ball in Motion (see Rule 11.3).

b
Ball Moved When Removing Loose Impediment

If a player’s removal of a loose impediment causes his or her ball to move:

  • The ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).
  • If the moved ball had been at rest anywhere except on the putting green (see Rule 13.1d) or in the teeing area (see Rule 6.2b(6)), the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b, except when Rule 7.4 applies (no penalty for ball moved during search) or when another exception to Rule 9.4b applies.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 15.1: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

Rule 15.2

Movable Obstructions

This Rule covers free relief that is allowed from artificial objects that meet the definition of movable obstruction.

It does not give relief from immovable obstructions (a different type of free relief is allowed under Rule 16.1) or boundary objects or integral objects (no free relief is allowed).

a
Relief from Movable Obstruction

(1) Removal of Movable Obstruction. Without penalty, a player may remove a movable obstruction anywhere on or off the course and may do so in any way.

But there are two exceptions:

Exception 1 – Tee Markers Must Not be Moved When Ball Will Be Played from Teeing Area (see Rules 6.2b(4) and 8.1a(1)).

Exception 2 – Restrictions on Deliberately Removing Movable Obstruction to Affect a Ball in Motion (see Rule 11.3).

If a player’s ball moves while he or she is removing a movable obstruction:

  • There is no penalty, and
  • The ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).

(2) Relief When Ball Is in or on Movable Obstruction Anywhere on Course Except on Putting Green. The player may take free relief by lifting the ball, removing the movable obstruction and dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

  • Reference Point: The estimated point right under where the ball was at rest in or on the movable obstruction.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must be in the same area of the course as the reference point, and
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point.

(3) Relief When Ball Is in or on Movable Obstruction on Putting Green. The player may take free relief by:

  • Lifting the ball and removing the movable obstruction, and
  • Placing the original ball or another ball on the estimated spot right under where the ball was at rest in or on the movable obstruction, using the procedures for replacing a ball under Rule 14.2b(2) and 14.2e.
b
Relief for Ball Not Found but in or on Movable Obstruction

If a player’s ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that it came to rest in or on a movable obstruction on the course, the player may use this relief option instead of taking stroke-and-distance relief:

  • The player may take free relief under Rule 15.2a(2) or 15.2a(3), using the estimated point right under where the ball last crossed the edge of the movable obstruction on the course as the reference point.
  • Once the player puts another ball in play to take relief in this way:
    • The original ball is no longer in play and must not be played.
    • This is true even if it is then found on the course before the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).

But if it is not known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in or on a movable obstruction and the ball is lost, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 15.2: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

Enjoy your golf,

Tony

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