Rules Review: Loose Impediments

What are they and what can I do with them?


Every single time you step on the golf course, you encounter loose impediments. Pine needles, twigs, stones, worms and leaves are all loose impediments and can get in your way on the course. So what can you do about them? First, let’s look at the definition of loose impediments so we can understand exactly what they are.

Loose impediments are natural objects, including: 1. stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like, 2. dung, and 3. worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them, provided they are not: 1. fixed or growing, 2. solidly embedded, or 3. adhering to the ball.

Now that we know what a loose impediment IS, what do we do with them when they’re in the way? Rule 23 in the Rules of Golf tells us that except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty. That means that a leaf in the fairway, rough, on the putting green, on the teeing ground, ANYWHERE other than in a hazard with your ball, can be moved at any time for any reason (except when a ball is in motion and the removal of the loose impediment might influence the movement of the ball). However, if your ball lies in the same hazard (which includes both water hazards and bunkers) as the loose impediment, you CANNOT move it.

Alright, we know what they are and we know when we can (and cannot) move them. The last vital thing to remember about loose impediments is that when moving the loose impediment, you must make sure that your ball DOES NOT move. Rule 23 will tell us that if the ball lies anywhere other than on the putting green and the removal of the loose impediment by the player causes the ball to move, the player will incur a 1-stroke penalty and the ball MUST be replaced. So only move the loose impediment if you’re sure that you’re not going to move the ball.  Something like this:

Make sure to check back next week for another Rules Review!
Questions about loose impediments? Email Maggie.

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