Rules Corner

Immovable Obstructions, Temporary Immovable Obstructions

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OMAHA, Neb. – On just about every golf course you will find artificial objects that could interfere with your play.  The Rules of Golf classify such objects as obstructions (see Definition of Obstruction).

Immovable Obstruction Senior Open Rules Blog  
Several obstructions come into view near the eighth tee at Omaha C.C. (USGA/David Staebler)  

In this picture taken near the eighth tee at Omaha Country Club, the site of the 34th U.S. Senior Open, there are several obstructions in view: three cart paths, an irrigation system control box and a building.  All of them are permanent and immovable. The Rules of Golf grant relief without penalty from immovable obstructions (see Rule 24-2, Immovable Obstruction Relief) when there is direct interference with a golfer’s:

1.) lie,
2.) stance or
3.) area of intended swing. 

However, what the Rules do not provide is free relief when an immovable obstruction intervenes only on a player’s line for a shot to be played.  The reason for this is the direction a golfer plays is a choice and that choice can easily be manipulated to create interference.  Also, obstructions like sprinkler heads and cart paths are so pervasive on most courses that there is always the opportunity for one of them to intervene on a player’s line for just about any stroke played from the teeing ground to the green. 

Golf is a game of playing the course as you find it.  While the Rule-makers do not think it is fair to make you hit your ball off an obstruction, to stand on one to hit a ball or for one to interfere with your swing, they do think it is fair to require you to play the course as you find it and figure out how to avoid immovable obstructions when there is no direct interference while playing your way from the teeing ground to the hole. This is no different than the challenge of avoiding trees, punishing rough, hazards and other obstacles.

Also shown in the photograph is a structure which was specifically built for the Senior Open. It is a wire-mesh fence covered with a green screening material surrounding several portalets. This will be removed at the championship’s conclusion. These kinds of structures also meet the definition of obstructions and are immovable like those previously discussed, but are different in that they are not permanent fixtures on the course.  For this reason, the Rules allow them to be treated slightly differently from the ordinary immovable obstructions previously discussed.

The Rules allow the Committee to put a Local Rule into effect which classifies such structures as temporary immovable obstructions (see Appendix I-B-7a for the Local Rule on temporary removable obstructions, TIOs).  When used, as it is during this week’s championship, players are allowed free relief from such temporary structures when they directly interfere with a player’s lie, stance, or area of intended swing, and also when there is intervention directly between a player’s ball and the hole as long as the player could reasonable play toward the hole if the TIO wasn’t there.  The reason for this additional relief is because these structures are not permanent fixtures on the course. Under normal playing conditions, they wouldn’t exist.  In other words, a player whose ball lies behind one of them would have had a clear shot to the hole any other time they played except during the specific competition they were erected to support. 

The Champions Tour uses the TIO Local Rule in all of their events, as does the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour.  There is a misperception that players are permitted “line-of-sight” relief from all obstructions.  This is not true.  At regular tour events as well as this week’s U.S. Senior Open, players will not get “line-of-sight” relief from ordinary immovable obstructions, just free relief for direct interference with their lie, stance or area of intended swing.  They will have to deal with ordinary immovable obstructions just as all other golfers do throughout the world.  They will, however, get free relief for “line-of-sight” intervention from the temporary immovable obstructions built specifically for the staging of the competition.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at http://www.usga.org or watch the Rules of Golf Explained videos at http://www.usga-rules.com/.

David Staebler is the director of Rules Education for the USGA. Email him at dstaebler@usga.org.

 

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