June 01, 2019

Rules of Golf - Moving Natural Objects

What are loose impediments and what can players do with them?

15.1a - Removal of Loose Impediments

What is a Loose Impediment?

Any unattached natural object such as: stones, loose grass, leaves, branches, and sticks, dead animals and animal waste, worms, insects and similar animals that can be removed easily and the mounds or webs they build, and clumps of compacted soil.

Such natural objects are NOT loose if they are attached or growing, solidly embedded (that is, cannot be picked out easily) or sticking to the ball.

Special cases:  

  • Sand and loose soil are NOT loose impediments.
  • Dew, Frost an Water are NOT loose impediments.
  • Snow and Natural Ice are either loose impediments or, when on the ground temporary water, at the player's option.
  • Spider Webs are loose impediments even though they are attached to another object.

Without penalty, a player may remove a loose impediment ANYWHERE on, or off, the course. 

What You Need to Know

  1. Removal of loose impediments anywhere on the course includes in both a penalty area and in bunkers

  2. A player may remove loose impediments by any means, such as a hand or foot, or a club or other equipment.
    • Be careful - If the player causes their ball to move when removing a loose impediment they incur a one stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced

  3. EXCEPTION 1 - Removing a loose impediment  where a ball must be replaced before replacing the ball that was lifted or moved
    • A player must not deliberately remove a loose impediment that if moved when the ball was at rest, would have likely caused the ball to move
    • If they player does so, they incur a one stroke penalty, but the removed loose impediment does not need to be replaced

  4. EXCEPTION 2 - A player must not deliberately remove a loose impediment to affect a ball in motion (see Rule 11.3). The player would incur the general penalty.

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