Matt Kuchar came under fire on social media for removing loose impediments at the Porsche European Open. But what do the Rules of Golf say?

Keeping your head down doesn’t seem to be a phrase in Matt Kuchar’s vocabulary.

Whether it is paying caddies, not conceding holes, or pitch marks that required multiple rules officials to get involved, the American has spent much of 2019 in the news.

It was little surprise he found himself once more in the public’s crosshairs at the Porsche European Open.

The cameras focused on him removing loose impediments at the Green Eagle Golf Courses – and his actions provoked the ire of social media watchers.

But was Kuchar just following the Rules? Let’s take a look at what they say…

It’s hard to tell, from this clip alone, whether he is in a bunker or waste area and the two aren’t treated the same.

The latter is part of the general area so you would, for example, be able to ground your club.

A loose impediment is classed as any unattached natural object, such as stones, loose grass, leaves, branches and a whole host of other things. Sand and loose soil, on the other hand, are not loose impediments.

Rule 15.1 in the Rules of Golf covers loose impediments and states that “without penalty, a player may remove a loose impediment anywhere on or off the course, and may do so in any way (such as by using a hand or foot or a club or other equipment)”.

The later interpretations also acknowledge that loose impediments come in “many shapes and sizes”.

It adds that the means and methods by which they are removed “are not limited, except that removal must not unreasonably delay play”.

So, in the Rules, if what he faces is classed as loose impediments – and he had a referee there to guide him – Kuchar can remove whatever he wants and simply ensure he’s not causing an unreasonable delay.

All he really needs to worry about is causing the ball to move. In that instance, he would receive a penalty.

The commentators in the clip were implying Kuchar’s actions were improving the conditions of the stroke – Mark Roe said the ball would soon be “on a tee-peg”.

But Rule 8.1 doesn’t apply to loose impediments and you refer to Rule 15 instead.

Why?

Think about it. Isn’t removing loose impediments improving a lie anyway?

So you might argue that he was removing too many, and that he was challenging the spirit of the Rules, but, as they are written, he didn’t break them.

Would the situation have been different if it was a bunker?

Rule 12 in the Rules of Golf applies here and what we’re looking at comes under 12.2a.

It states: “Before playing a ball in a bunker, a player may remove loose impediments under Rule 15.1. This includes any reasonable touching or movement of the sand in the bunker that happens while doing so.”

This was one of the many changes brought in when the revised rules came into effect in January, although many clubs employed it previously as a Local Rule.

It was designed to reflect the need to play out of sand, rather than dodge leaves, stones, or other loose impediments that were in a bunker.

Matt Kuchar bunker

The interpretations of this Rule also allow, without threat of penalty, for the action of removing loose impediments not only to move sand but to “improve conditions affecting the stroke if the actions taken to remove the loose impediment or movable obstruction were reasonable”.

Where you can fall foul is if there was a less intrusive way of doing that. The example given is of a pine cone. If you drag the pine cone away in a way that removes sand, when you could have simply picked it straight up, then that unreasonable action would be penalised.

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