Your ball has found its way into red or yellow stakes. Can you remove twigs and sticks around your ball? Our expert has the answer
“Very recently my partner and I were playing a foursomes match and we found ourselves level after 18 holes and playing sudden death,” wrote Gareth to me on a recent email.
“On the second hole of sudden death I hit my ball into a ditch marked with red stakes. The ditch was dry and my partner decided to play out of it but before his stroke he removed a couple of twigs in front of his ball.
“After playing the shot the opposing team said that he was not allowed to move loose impediments in a water hazard. That we conceded, lost the hole and match.
“We are hoping you can help with this and tell us what exactly the rule is for loose impediments in a red staked penalty area.”
I’d be happy to oblige, Gareth…
Rules of Golf explained: Loose impediments in a penalty area
Commit this to memory if you’re at all confused. If you’re planning on playing your ball as it lies in a penalty area, you use the same rules that apply to a ball in the general area.
So, as Rule 17.1b says, that “means there are no special Rules limiting how a ball may be played from a penalty area”.
While it’s true that there are some things you’re stuck with in a penalty area, you can’t take free relief from an abnormal course condition for example, you CAN ground your club – you’ll be surprised how many people still think you can’t – and you CAN remove loose impediments.
Rule 15.1a says you can do that “anywhere on or off the course and may do so in any way”. Use the clubhead, use your hand, foot, a towel, get help from others.
Just make sure you don’t move loose sand or soil while doing so as you’ll get the general penalty (two-strokes or loss of hole in match play) for improving conditions affecting the stroke, and don’t move the ball.
You’ll pick up a one-stroke penalty if you do you, and the general penalty if you then play it without replacing it.
Otherwise, in this case, the world is your oyster. Remove away.
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 3 rules exam with distinction, I’ll try to help by featuring the best in this column.
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