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Our Experts Explain: Sergio's TIO Adventure October 5, 2017 | Far Hills, N.J. By Daniela Lendl, USGA

Sergio Garcia encountered an interesting situation regarding the Rules of Golf and TIOs in last month's BMW Championship. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

While one of the guiding principles of the game of golf is to play your ball as it lies, some necessary exceptions must be taken into consideration when applying the Rules. One of these exceptions occurs when temporary obstructions are installed on a golf course.

Under the Rules of Golf, the Committee should identify the temporary obstructions through use of a Local Rule. While this Local Rule may seem irregular, its implementation has increased on professional tours due to the expansion of tournament infrastructures. An example of this was displayed in September during the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship.

A temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) is a non-permanent artificial object that is often erected in conjunction with a competition and is fixed or not readily movable. TIOs are most common at professional events in the form of tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatories.

As is the case with movable and immovable obstructions, the Rules offer relief when you face interference from a temporary immovable obstruction. Interference by a TIO occurs when (a) your ball lies in front of and so close to the TIO that the TIO interferes with your stance or the area of your intended swing, or (b) your ball lies in, on, under or behind the TIO so that any part of the TIO intervenes directly between your ball and the hole and is on your line of play. Additionally, there is a one club-length buffer zone on each side of your line of play. If your ball lies in this buffer zone, interference also exists.

Sergio Garcia encountered a situation in the BMW Championship in which he faced interference from a TIO while his ball lay in a lateral water hazard. His second stroke on the par-5 18th hole at Conway Farms Golf Club came to rest between rocks inside the hazard. It was determined that interference existed with a TIO (grandstands) and, therefore, Garcia was granted free relief under the Local Rule, as prescribed below.

If interference exists, you may obtain free relief from the TIO, including a TIO that is out of bounds. When your ball lies through the green, the point on the course nearest to where your ball lies must meet the following criteria:

(a) It must not be nearer the hole,

(b) it must avoid interference and

(c) it must not be in a hazard or on a putting green.

You must lift your ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of the point determined above on a part of the course that fulfills (a), (b) and (c).

Unlike most relief procedures, this Local Rule also provides relief from a TIO when your ball lies in a hazard. In this situation, you have two options when electing to take relief. In the process of taking relief, you must lift and drop your ball either:

(i)             Inside the hazard without penalty, or

(ii)            under penalty of one stroke outside of the hazard.

Garcia opted to drop his ball within the hazard and play his third stroke from atop a rock. He then was granted free relief in the more traditional sense after his third stroke came to rest right in front of another grandstand. He got up and down from there for an adventurous par.

Taking free relief while your ball lies in a hazard is rarely seen, but is covered by the Rules of Golf. TIO interference is commonly seen during professional events, but usually not when a ball lies in a hazard. While this Local Rule may not be one that the everyday golfer is familiar with, those playing at the professional level have grown accustomed to its use.

Daniela Lendl is a Rules of Golf Associate for the USGA. Email her at