Rules Corner

Rules: Obstructions Near Greens

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By John Van der Borght


Lake Orion, Mich. – If you are attending the U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Country Club this week or watching it on TV, one of the things you will notice is the 18th green. The green is more than 50 yards deep and nearly as wide. In order to water a green this size, a number of sprinkler heads are located at the edges of the green. Additionally, there are two large drains situated directly off the edge of the green on the front right-hand side.


Because the area around the green has been mown to fairway height, many players who are just off the green may choose to putt the ball.  But what is the player to do if there is a sprinkler head or a large drain directly on his line of play?

Rule 24 (Obstructions) does not provide relief for an immovable obstruction that is on the player’s line of play throu   gh the green as long as it does not interfere with the area of his intended swing. This means that a player may have to find a different way to play this shot to avoid the obstruction.

The Rules of Golf do provide a number of local rules that may optionally be invoked by the committee in charge of a competition or the course. These local rules can be found in Appendix I of the Rules of Golf. One of the local rules provided allows for relief in situations such as this. Let’s take a look at this local rule.

The local rule states that if a ball lies through the green and an immovable obstruction on or within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball intervenes on the line of play between the ball and the hole, the player may take relief.  Relief under this local rule is different than ordinary relief from an obstruction. When taking relief under Rule 24, a player determines his nearest point of relief and drops a ball within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole. But, under this local rule, the player must drop the ball at the nearest point of relief, rather than within one club-length of that point. In both cases, the nearest point of relief must be no nearer the hole and not on a putting green or in a hazard and the ball must be dropped no nearer than the nearest point and not on a putting green or in a hazard.

In 2012, a note was added to this local rule, which gives the committee the right to restrict where it may be used. The committee may restrict its use to only balls lying in closely mown areas, to specific obstructions, only obstructions lying in closely mown areas or to specific holes.

Because the 18th hole at Indianwood is the only hole on the course where the use of closely mown areas around the greens is prevalent, the committee in charge of the U.S. Senior Open decided to implement the local rule only for play of the 18th hole.

As a player, you should always be sure to familiarize yourself with the local rules that are in force at the club where you are playing or for the tournament in which you are playing.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at  

Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules communications for the USGA. 


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