How do I take relief from a cart path?

Recently at our Parent-Child Championship at Walt Disney World Resort, I was asked multiple times about taking relief from a cart path. It is one of the basic relief procedures but one that is not totally understood (Rule 24; Obstructions).

Let me first begin by saying that generally, but not always, relief is granted when an artificial object interferes with you trying to hit a shot or make a putt (If your ball lies in a water hazard and you’re standing on the cart path, you get no relief). In the Rule Book, artificial objects are known as obstructions and are classified in one of two categories; movable or immovable obstructions. Immovable obstructions include cart paths, irrigation control boxes, sprinkler heads and buildings. The other type of obstruction is a movable obstruction such as a rake, a soda can or a gum wrapper.

Please don’t confuse obstructions with loose impediments. Loose impediments are natural things such as stones, twigs and leaves to which this Rule does not apply. Whereas, obstructions are man-made and this Rule gives relief.

Next, let’s define interference by an obstruction. It occurs when the ball lies in or on it, you are standing on it or it will get in the way of your area of intended swing; both backswing and follow through. Interference also exists when your ball lies on the putting green and the obstruction intervenes on your line of putt (pretty rare). We’ll save that one for another article later and just stick to situations off the green an outside of the bunkers.

Now in order to find out where to go next, we need to find the nearest point of relief. That will become our reference point for using this Rule.

When your ball lies through the green (not in a hazard or on the putting green), the nearest point of relief is the theoretical point on the course nearest to where the ball lies that is:

  1. Not in a hazard or on the putting green, and
  2. Is not nearer the hole, and
  3. If the ball were lying there, you would no longer have interference from the obstruction 

(Remember, it’s the nearest point of relief not the nicest point of relief. It also may be different for a left-handed player versus a right-handed player.

In order to find that point, take the club you would have used if the obstruction (let’s say cart path) were not there and simulate the stance and swing you would have used. Find the nearest spot where the ball would not be on the path, you would not be standing on the cart path and your club would not hit it during the swing. Where the club touches the ground during your simulated stance and swing, at that spot is your nearest point of relief. Put a tee in the ground right there.

Finally, you can now use any club in your bag to measure out one club-length from that tee in any direction as long as it is no nearer to the hole. You can pick up your ball and drop it anywhere within that pie shaped arc without penalty and you are ready to play golf again.

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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