Is your ball stuck in some foliage? Steve Carroll explains how to get to it without falling foul of the Rules of Golf

If you have ever played a round of golf, this has happened to you. Allow this email from Bill McGloin to set the scene.

“A player’s ball rolled through the fairway, through the first cut, and stopped almost under a relatively small fir tree,” he writes.

“The ball wasn’t under the branches but to hit the ball the player had to back into the tree bending it over to take a stance.

“The question is: Is it OK to back into the tree or bush bending it over – and not breaking it – or should they have taken it as unplayable and dropped appropriately?”

Rules of Golf explained: Fairly staking a stance

Rory McIlroy driver

Rule 8.1b deals with what you’re allowed to do when you’re taking actions that improve conditions affecting the stroke. There are nearly a dozen actions that are permissible, but we’re going to set our beady eyes down on number six.

It says that a player can fairly take a stance by taking “reasonable actions to get to the ball and take a stance”.

Does that allow you to bend the branches of a tree or bush? Well, it does if it’s the only reasonable way of getting to the ball.

There is a but, though. You have to use the least intrusive course of action to deal with the particular situation.

Don’t go bending and breaking branches if you can get to the ball in an easier fashion. You’ll be rewarded with the general penalty (two shots or loss of hole in match play) for that bit of senseless vandalism.

And don’t take liberties, either, when it comes to how you set up to the shot. You are not entitled to a “normal stance or swing”.

What’s the strangest situation you’ve had where you’ve been fairly taking a stance? Let me know with a tweet.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s Level 3 rules exam with distinction, I’ll try to help by featuring the best in this column.

You can read all of Steve’s Rules of Golf explained columns here.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. Steve is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 3-Wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Hybrids: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Irons: TaylorMade Stealth 5-A Wedge Wedges: TaylorMade Hi-Toe 54 and 58 Putter: Sik Sho Ball: TaylorMade TP5

Handicap: 11.3

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