Loose Impediments

What are they and how are they treated under the Rules of Golf. 

First, as usual, let’s start with the definition:
“Loose impediments’’ are natural objects, including:

  • stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like,
  • dung, and
  • worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them,

provided they are not:

  • fixed or growing,
  • solidly embedded, or
  • adhering to the ball.

Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.

Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

Two things to remember; loose impediments are natural (not manmade such as a rake or soda can) and they are loose (not fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or adhering to the ball).

Can you move them? The answer depends on the situation; maybe yes and maybe no.

When your ball in play lies in a hazard (water hazard or bunker), you are prohibited from touching or moving a loose impediment lying in or touching that same hazard (Rule 13-4c). If you did, the result would be a loss of hole penalty in match play or two strokes in stroke play.

When your ball is in play and at rest through the green, you need to make a decision. If you move the loose impediment and your ball moves as a result of the removal, you incur a one stroke penalty as long as you replace the ball. If you move the loose impediment and the ball does not move, there is no penalty. Moral of the story; you need to become a good loose impediment mover!

When your ball lies on the putting green, the Rules give you a little more wiggle room. If your ball or ball marker is moved during the removal of a loose impediment, there is no penalty provided the movement of the ball or ball marker is directly attributable to the removal of the loose impediment.

Here are a couple more interesting notes.

  • You can move a loose impediment lying out of bounds.
  • You may not move a loose impediment when a ball is in motion, if the removal might influence the movement of the ball.
  • Loose impediments are not always lying on the ground.
  • Loose impediments were mentioned in the first recorded Rules of Golf in 1744.

And finally, here is an excerpt from July 20, 1776 in play of the Company of Golfers which met at Thomas Combs, Bruntsfield Links:

“If your Ball lies amongst Human Ordure, Cow Dung or any such nuisance on the fair green, you may, upon losing one, lift it, throw it over your head, behind the nuisance and play it with any club you please.”

I believe they mean your ball and not the dung!

Remember, knowing and following the Rules of Golf can assist you in avoiding unnecessary penalties and help you to enjoy this great game of golf even more.

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