Examples of when comments or actions are considered advice and are not allowed include:
A player makes a statement regarding club selection that was intended to be overheard by another player who had a similar stroke.
In individual stroke play, Player A, who has just holed out on the 7th hole, demonstrates to Player B, whose ball was just off the putting green, how to make the next stroke. Because Player B has not completed the hole, Player A gets the penalty on the 7th hole. But, if both Player A and Player B had completed the 7th hole, Player A gets the penalty on the 8th hole.
A player’s ball is lying badly and the player is deliberating what action to take. Another player comments, “You have no shot at all. If I were you, I would decide to take unplayable ball relief.” This comment is advice because it could have influenced the player in deciding how to play during a hole.
While a player is setting up to hit his or her shot over a large penalty area filled with water, another player in the group comments, “You know the wind is in your face and it’s 250 yards to carry that water?”
Examples of comments or actions that are not advice include:
During play of the 6th hole, a player asks another player what club he or she used on the 4th hole that is a par-3 of similar length.
A player makes a second stroke that lands on the putting green. Another player does likewise. The first player then asks the second player what club was used for the second stroke.
After making a stroke, a player says, “I should have used a 5-iron” to another player in the group that has yet to play onto the green, but not intending to influence his or her play.
A player looks into another player’s bag to determine which club he or she used for the last stroke without touching or moving anything.
While lining up a putt, a player mistakenly seeks advice from another player’s caddie, believing that caddie to be the player’s caddie. The player immediately realizes the mistake and tells the other caddie not to answer.
An isolated animal footprint that is not leading into an animal hole is not a hole made by an animal but rather is an irregularity of the surface from which relief without penalty is not allowed. However, when such damage is on the putting green, it may be repaired (Rule 13.1c(2) – Improvements Allowed on Putting Green).
Objects that are attached to a boundary object, but are not part of that boundary object, are obstructions and a player may be allowed free relief from them.
If the Committee does not wish to provide free relief from an obstruction attached to a boundary object, it may introduce a Local Rule providing that the obstruction is an integral object, in which case it loses its status as an obstruction and free relief is not allowed.
For example, if angled supports are so close to a boundary fence that leaving the supports as obstructions would essentially give players free relief from the boundary object, the Committee may choose to define the supports to be integral objects.
A gate for getting through a boundary wall or fence is not part of the boundary object. Such a gate is an obstruction unless the Committee chooses to define it as an integral object.
Boundary objects are treated as immovable, even if part of the object is designed to be movable. To ensure a consistent approach, this applies to all boundary objects.
An example of how a movable boundary object may come into play during a round includes when a boundary stake interferes with a player’s stance so he or she pulls the stake out of the ground (a breach of Rule 8.1a), but part of it breaks during removal. If the player realizes the mistake before making the next stroke, he or she may restore the improved conditions by replacing enough of the broken boundary stake to restore the interference to what it was before the stake was removed.
But if the improvement cannot be eliminated (such as when a boundary object has been bent or broken in such a way that the improvement cannot be eliminated), the player cannot avoid penalty.
For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.
If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.
If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.
See Rule 2.2c for when a ball touches two areas of the course.
Items, other than clubs, that are carried by someone other than a player or his or her caddie are outside influences, even if they belong to the player. However, they are the player’s equipment when in the player’s or his or her caddie’s possession.
For example, if a player asks a spectator to carry his or her umbrella, the umbrella is an outside influence while in the spectator’s possession. However, if the spectator hands the umbrella to the player, it is now his or her equipment.
If an artificial or natural object is being used to mark the position of the hole, that object is treated the same as the flagstick would be.
For example, if the flagstick has been removed and a player wants the position of the hole indicated but does not want to waste time getting the flagstick, someone else may indicate the position of the hole with a club. But, for the purpose of applying the Rules, the club is treated as if it were the flagstick.
A hole made by maintenance staff is ground under repair even when not marked as ground under repair. However, not all damage caused by maintenance staff is ground under repair by default.
Examples of damage that is not ground under repair by default include:
A rut made by a tractor (but the Committee is justified in declaring a deep rut to be ground under repair).
An old hole plug that is sunk below the putting green surface, but see Rule 13.1c (Improvements Allowed on Putting Green).
If a tree is rooted in ground under repair and a player’s ball is in a branch of that tree, the ball is in ground under repair even if the branch extends outside the defined area.
If the player decides to take free relief under Rule 16.1 and the spot on the ground directly under where the ball lies in the tree is outside the ground under repair, the reference point for determining the relief area and taking relief is that spot on the ground.
A fallen tree or tree stump that the Committee intends to remove, but is not in the process of being removed, is not automatically ground under repair. However, if the tree and the tree stump are in the process of being unearthed or cut up for later removal, they are “material piled for later removal” and therefore ground under repair.
For example, a tree that has fallen in the general area and is still attached to the stump is not ground under repair. However, a player could request relief from the Committee and the Committee would be justified in declaring the area covered by the fallen tree to be ground under repair.
When a ball is embedded in the side of the hole, and all of the ball is not below the surface of the putting green, the ball is not holed. This is the case even if the ball touches the flagstick.
The words “at rest” in the definition of holed are used to make it clear that if a ball falls into the hole and bounces out, it is not holed.
However, if a player removes a ball from the hole that is still moving (such as circling or bouncing in the bottom of the hole), it is considered holed despite the ball not having come to rest in the hole.
Any turf that is leading to an immovable obstruction or covering an immovable obstruction, is not part of the obstruction.
For example, a water pipe is partly underground and partly above ground. If the pipe that is underground causes the turf to be raised, the raised turf is not part of the immovable obstruction.
When it is not “known” what caused the ball to move, all reasonably available information must be considered and the evidence must be evaluated to determine if it is “virtually certain” that the player, opponent or outside influence caused the ball to move.
Depending on the circumstances, reasonably available information may include, but is not limited to:
The effect of any actions taken near the ball (such as movement of loose impediments, practice swings, grounding club and taking a stance),
Time elapsed between such actions and the movement of the ball,
The lie of the ball before it moved (such as on a fairway, perched on longer grass, on a surface imperfection or on the putting green),
The conditions of the ground near the ball (such as the degree of slope or presence of surface irregularities, etc), and
Wind speed and direction, rain and other weather conditions.
Determining whether there is knowledge or virtual certainty must be based on evidence known to the player at the time the three-minute search time expires.
Examples of when the player’s later findings are irrelevant include when:
A player’s tee shot comes to rest in an area containing heavy rough and a large animal hole. After a three-minute search, it is determined that it is not known or virtually certain that the ball is in the animal hole. As the player returns to the teeing area, the ball is found in the animal hole.
Even though the player has not yet put another ball in play, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b – What to Do When Ball is Lost or Out of Bounds) since it was not known or virtually certain that the ball was in the animal hole, when the search time expired.
A player cannot find his or her ball and believes it may have been picked up by a spectator (outside influence), but there is not enough evidence to be virtually certain of this. A short time after the threeminute search time expires, a spectator is found to have the player’s ball.
The player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b) since the movement by the outside influence only became known after the search time expired.
It must be known or virtually certain that a player’s ball has been played by another player as a wrong ball to treat it as being moved.
For example, in stroke play, Player A and Player B hit their tee shots into the same general location. Player A finds a ball and plays it. Player B goes forward to look for his or her ball and cannot find it. After three minutes, Player B starts back to the tee to play another ball. On the way, Player B finds Player A’s ball and knows then that Player A has played his or her ball in error.
Player A gets the general penalty for playing a wrong ball and must then play his or her own ball (Rule 6.3c). Player A’s ball was not lost even though both players searched for more than three minutes because Player A did not start searching for his or her ball; the searching was for Player B’s ball. Regarding Player B’s ball, Player B’s original ball was lost and he or she must put another ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b), because it was not known or virtually certain when the threeminute search time expired that the ball had been played by another player.
Fruit that is detached from its tree or bush is a loose impediment, even if the fruit is from a bush or tree not found on the course.
For example, fruit that has been partially eaten or cut into pieces, and the skin that has been peeled from a piece of fruit are loose impediments. But, when being carried by a player, it is his or her equipment.
Loose impediments may be transformed into obstructions through the processes of construction or manufacturing.
For example, a log (loose impediment) that has been split and had legs attached has been changed by construction into a bench (obstruction).
Saliva may be treated as either temporary water or a loose impediment, at the option of the player.
Gravel is a loose impediment and a player may remove loose impediments under Rule 15.1a. This right is not affected by the fact that, when a road is covered with gravel, it becomes an artificially surfaced road, making it an immovable obstruction. The same principle applies to roads or paths constructed with stone, crushed shell, wood chips or the like.
In such a situation, the player may:
Play the ball as it lies on the obstruction and remove gravel (loose impediment) from the road (Rule 15.1a).
Take relief without penalty from the abnormal course condition (immovable obstruction) (Rule 16.1b).
The player may also remove some gravel from the road to determine the possibility of playing the ball as it lies before choosing to take free relief.
Although dead insects may be considered to be sticking to a ball, living insects are never considered to be sticking to a ball, whether they are stationary or moving. Therefore, live insects on a ball are loose impediments.
A player may not make a ball lost by a declaration. A ball is lost only when it has not been found within three minutes after the player or his or her caddie or partner begins to search for it.
For example, a player searches for his or her ball for two minutes, declares it lost and walks back to play another ball. Before the player puts another ball in play, the original ball is found within the three-minute search time. Since the player may not declare his or her ball lost, the original ball remains in play.
The three-minute search time for a ball starts when the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’s caddie) starts to search for it. The player may not delay the start of the search in order to gain an advantage by allowing other people to search on his or her behalf.
For example, if a player is walking towards his or her ball and spectators are already looking for the ball, the player cannot deliberately delay getting to the area to keep the three-minute search time from starting. In such circumstances, the search time starts when the player would have been in a position to search had he or she not deliberately delayed getting to the area.
If a player has started to search for his or her ball and is returning to the spot of the previous stroke to play a provisional ball, the three-minute search time continues whether or not anyone continues to search for the player’s ball.
When a player has played two balls (such as the ball in play and a provisional ball) and is searching for both, whether the player is allowed two separate three-minute search times depends how close the balls are to each other.
If the balls are in the same area where they can be searched for at the same time, the player is allowed only three minutes to search for both balls. However, if the balls are in different areas (such as opposite sides of the fairway) the player is allowed a three-minute search time for each ball.
An abandoned ball is a movable obstruction.
For the purpose of deciding whether a ball must be replaced or whether a player gets a penalty, a ball is treated as having moved only if it has moved in relation to a specific part of the larger condition or object it is resting on, unless the entire object the ball is resting on has moved in relation to the ground.
An example of when a ball has not moved includes when:
A ball is resting in the fork of a tree branch and the tree branch moves, but the ball’s spot in the branch does not change.
Examples of when a ball has moved include when:
A ball is resting in a stationary plastic cup and the cup itself moves in relation to the ground because it is being blown by the wind.
A ball is resting in or on a stationary motorized cart that starts to move.
When determining whether or not a ball at rest has moved, a player must make that judgment based on all the information reasonably available to him or her at the time, so that he or she can determine whether the ball must be replaced under the Rules. When the player’s ball has left its original position and come to rest in another place by an amount that was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, a player’s determination that the ball has not moved is conclusive, even if that determination is later shown to be incorrect through the use of sophisticated technology.
On the other hand, if the Committee determines, based on all of the evidence it has available, that the ball changed its position by an amount that was reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, the ball will be determined to have moved even though no-one actually saw it move.
In the diagrams, the term “nearest point of complete relief” in Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions) for relief from interference by ground under repair is illustrated in the case of both a right-handed and a left-handed player.
The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player’s nearest point of complete relief.
Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.
When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.
For example, the player’s ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).
The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.
The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.
For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.
After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball’s original spot had the condition not been there.
If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.
If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.
For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.
The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.
If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.
The status of growing things that overhang a no play zone depends on the type of no play zone. This will matter since the growing things may be part of the no play zone, in which case the player is required to take relief.
For example, if a no play zone has been defined as a penalty area (where the edges extend above and below the ground), any part of a growing object that extends beyond the edges of the no play zone is not part of the no play zone. However, if a no play zone has been defined as ground under repair (which includes all ground inside the defined area and anything growing that extends above the ground and outside the edges), anything overhanging the edge is part of the no play zone.
Although artificial objects are obstructions so long as they are not boundary objects or integral objects, paint dots and paint lines are not obstructions.
Sometimes paint dots and lines are used for purposes other than course marking (such as indicating the front and back of putting greens). Such dots and lines are not an abnormal course condition unless the Committee declares them to be ground under repair (see Committee Procedures; Model Local Rule F-21).
Although wind and water are natural forces and not outside influences, artificially propelled air and water are outside influences.
If a ball at rest on the putting green has not been lifted and replaced and is moved by air from a greenside fan, the ball must be replaced (Rule 9.6 and Rule 14.2).
If a ball at rest is moved by water coming from an irrigation system, the ball must be replaced (Rule 9.6 and Rule 14.2).
For a ball to be replaced in a right way, it must be set down and let go. This means the player must use his or her hand to put the ball back in play on the spot it was lifted or moved from.
For example, if a player lifts his or her ball from the putting green and sets it aside, the player must not replace the ball by rolling it to the required spot with a club. If he or she does so, the ball is not replaced in the right way and the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 14.2b(2) (How Ball Must Be Replaced) if the mistake is not corrected before the stroke is made.
If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:
The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.
The player’s action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:
During the downswing, a player’s clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
During the backswing, a player’s clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
If a player makes a stroke at part of a stray ball that he or she mistakenly thought was the ball in play, he or she has made a stroke at a wrong ball and Rule 6.3c applies.