Trees are shedding all over the putting surface and it's causing issues? Our Rules of Golf guru is here to help

I love Autumn. The golf course is full of beautiful colours and it’s still warm enough to convince you that winter isn’t about to pounce. What I love less about the season is that trees start losing their leaves and, for golfers, that means trouble.

If your golf course has a penchant for being an environmental refuge then the green can get particularly covered and you can have loads of them blocking your line.

Now, everyone knows that unattached leaves are loose impediments and can you can usually remove them anywhere and in any way under Rule 15.1. There’s also no penalty for accidentally causing the ball to move if you do it while removing loose impediments on the putting green under Rule 13.1d (1).

But how long can you spend doing a bit of sweeping? Is there a time limit if you’re trying to clear a way to the hole? Let’s have a look…

Loose impediments on the green: Our expert says…

Can you swish away with abandon? There’s an interpretation to Rule 15.1a that sensibly puts down some kind of limit when you are shifting loose impediments. It says that ‘removal must not unreasonably delay play’.

So what’s an unreasonable delay? For that, we can scan an interpretation to Rule 5.6a, which states that it is actions that are ‘within the player’s control and affect other players or delay the competition’.

Brief delays, on the other hand, that are a ‘result of normal events that happen during a round or are outside the player’s control’ are generally considered to be reasonable.

To figure out what is unreasonable, or not, you have to consider the circumstances and that includes ‘whether the player is waiting for other players in the group or the group ahead’.

As you’ll probably have figured out by now, if you use your common sense you’ll stay out of trouble here.

If you’ve got people waiting behind you, or you’re at risk of holding up your own group, don’t spend too long mopping up leaves. A breach of Rule 5.6a comes with a penalty of one stroke for the first time and two shots for a second, or loss of hole in match play. It’s three strikes and out for those who just won’t learn. A third breach means disqualification.

But if you do find yourself a bit strapped for time, don’t think that means you need bear the burden alone.

That same interpretation to Rule 15.1a also states a player is allowed to ask for help in removing loose impediments so don’t be shy in getting those playing partners involved!

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. I’m still inundated with requests and trying to get through them.

Just to reiterate, I continue to receive emails from players hoping I can intervene in a club rules dispute. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t do that and would direct those players either to their county or to the rules department at the R&A for a definitive judgement.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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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.

Handicap: 10.9

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