Rule 15 - Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (including Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play)

Purpose of Rule: Rule 15 covers when and how the player may take free relief from loose impediments and movable obstructions.

15.1 Loose Impediments

a. Removal of Loose Impediment

Without penalty, a player may remove a loose impedimentLoose Impediment: Any unattached natural object such as: anywhere on or off the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:, and may do so in any way (such as by using a hand or foot or a club or other equipmentEquipment: Anything used, worn, held or carried by the player or the player’s caddie.).

But there are two exceptions:

Exception 1 – Removing Loose Impediment Where Ball Must Be Replaced: Before replacingReplace: To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play. a ball that was lifted or movedMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so). from anywhere except the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that::

This exception applies both during a roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee. and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a. It does not apply to a loose impedimentLoose Impediment: Any unattached natural object such as: that is removed as a result of markingMark: To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either: the spot of a ball, or lifting, movingMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so).  or replacingReplace: To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play. a ball or causing a ball to moveMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so)..

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 impedimentLoose Impediment: Any unattached natural object such as: causes his or her ball to moveMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so).:

15.2  Movable Obstructions

This Rule covers free relief that is allowed from artificial objects that meet the definition of movable obstructionMovable Obstruction: An obstruction that can be moved with reasonable effort and without damaging the obstruction or the course..

It does not give relief from immovable obstructionsImmovable Obstruction: Any obstruction that: (a different type of free relief is allowed under Rule 16.1) or boundary objectsBoundary Object: Artificial objects defining or showing out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings, from which free relief is not allowed. or integral objectsIntegral Object: An artificial object defined by the Committee as part of the challenge of playing the course from which free relief is not allowed. (no free relief is allowed).

a. Relief from Movable Obstruction

(1) Removal of Movable Obstruction. Without penalty, a player may remove a movable obstructionMovable Obstruction: An obstruction that can be moved with reasonable effort and without damaging the obstruction or the course. anywhere on or off the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee: 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 movesMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so). while he or she is removing a movable obstructionMovable Obstruction: An obstruction that can be moved with reasonable effort and without damaging the obstruction or the course.:

(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 obstructionMovable Obstruction: An obstruction that can be moved with reasonable effort and without damaging the obstruction or the course. and droppingDrop: To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play. the original ball or another ball in this relief areaRelief Area: The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors: (see Rule 14.3):

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

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 certainKnown or Virtually Certain: The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move. that it came to rest in or on a movable obstructionMovable Obstruction: An obstruction that can be moved with reasonable effort and without damaging the obstruction or the course. on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:, the player may use this relief option instead of taking stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief:

But if it is not known or virtually certainKnown or Virtually Certain: The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move. that the ball came to rest in or on a movable obstructionMovable Obstruction: An obstruction that can be moved with reasonable effort and without damaging the obstruction or the course. and the ball is lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’scaddie) begins to search for it., the player must take stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief under Rule 18.2.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly SubstitutedSubstitute: To change the ball the player is using to play a hole by having another ball become the ball in play. Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 15.2: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. Under Rule 6.3b or Rule 14.7a.

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

15.3  Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play

a. Ball on Putting Green Helping Play

Rule 15.3a applies only to a ball at rest on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that:, not anywhere else on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:.

If a player reasonably believes that a ball on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: might help anyone’s play (such as by serving as a possible backstop near the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:), the player may:

In stroke playStroke Play: A form of play where a player or side competes against all other players or sides in the competition. only:

b. Ball Anywhere on Course Interfering with Play

(1) Meaning of Interference by Another Player’s Ball. Interference under this Rule exists when another player’s ball at rest:

(2) When Relief Is Allowed from Interfering Ball. If a player reasonably believes that another player’s ball anywhere on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee: might interfere with the player’s own play:

A player is not allowed to lift his or her ball under this Rule based only on the player’s own belief that the ball might interfere with another player’s play.

If the player lifts his or her ball when not required to do so by the other player (except when lifting the ball on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: under Rule 13.1b), the player gets one penalty stroke.

c. Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play

If a ball-markerBall-Marker: An artificial object when used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment. might help or interfere with play, a player may:

The ball-markerBall-Marker: An artificial object when used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment. must be moved out of the way to a new spot measured from its original spot, such as by using one or more clubhead-lengths.

Either the lifted ball must be replacedReplace: To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play. on its original spot (see Rule 14.2) or the ball-markerBall-Marker: An artificial object when used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment. must be replaced to markMark: To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either: that spot.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 15.3: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play..

This penalty also applies if the player:

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly SubstitutedSubstitute: To change the ball the player is using to play a hole by having another ball become the ball in play. Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 15.3: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

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