Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ask Linda #1595-Treat a movable obstruction as immovable

Dear Linda,
You have helped me on a number of previous occasions and I wonder if you can help again?

I attach a photograph of a metal sign which has been placed on our golf course. The sign is anchored by metal stakes pushed into the ground and can be easily removed.

Some players take the view that if their stance or swing is interfered with by the sign they can treat the sign as an immovable obstruction and take a drop from the nearest point of relief plus one club-length. This can have the effect of them dropping their ball on the mown fairway rather than in the rough where they would have to play from if they merely removed the sign.

I have read the definition Section of the rules which says:-

“An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise it is an immovable obstruction.”

I have also read Rule 24 in relation to obstructions and the relief that may be taken. This situation does not seem to be addressed. Can a player decide not to remove an obstruction that is clearly movable and call it immovable?

Lou from Adelaide, South Australia

Dear Lou,

An obstruction is either movable or not. The decision is not at the discretion of the golfer. While a Committee may choose to declare a movable obstruction immovable (an example would be declaring hazard stakes immovable), the individual golfer does not have this right.

Signs placed on the golf course to direct traffic are generally designed to be movable; I have never encountered one that wasn’t. If a movable obstruction interferes with the player’s shot, he is entitled to remove it [Rule 24-1]. He is not, however, entitled to arbitrarily declare the sign to be immovable and take relief. If he does, he will incur a two-stroke penalty (loss of hole in match play) for a breach of Rule 18-2 [Decision 18-2/4].

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