You’re probably used to getting free relief from an artificial path but at a trio of The Open’s most famous holes, the 1st, 17th, and 18th at St Andrews, it’s not on the table. Our Rules of Golf expert explains why

They’re probably the game’s most famous bits of asphalt – Grannie Clark’s Wynd which cuts across the 1st and 18th fairways at the Old Course, and the rock-hard road and crumbly path that lie waiting just beyond the green at the infamous 17th.

Now, if you spy your ball sitting on a road or path at your club you might be thinking about where you’ll take that delicious free drop before you’ve even arrived on the scene.

That’s because artificially surfaced roads and paths are obstructions – immovable in this case – and are defined in the Rules of Golf as abnormal course conditions.

Usually, you’re able to take free relief under Rule 16.1.

But, if your ball finds itself on one of these spots at the Home of Golf, you’ll either have to play it as it lies or, if you don’t fancy putting a big scrape on your favourite iron, declare your ball unplayable and take penalty relief.

So, what’s the deal, why are these roads different?

Let’s dive in…

What are integral objects?

Even though an artificial path or road meets the definition of an abnormal course condition, a committee can decide that an artificial object is “part of the challenge of playing the course”.

That makes them an integral object and free relief is not allowed. A little scan at the Local Rules for the Old Course confirms this to be the case here.

Both the road that crosses the 1st and 18th and the road and path behind the 17th green “from the two black and yellow posts onwards are integral objects”.

While some of you might embrace the drama, particularly at the Road Hole, of playing a shot that’s been made famous down the years, those of you that like your precious clubs to remain as they were are going to have to suck up a one stroke penalty and take one the options – stroke-and-distance, back-on-the-line, or lateral relief, under Rule 19.  

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