Big pole in the way of your approach? Do you have to put up with it, or can you just shift it out of the way? Our Rules of Golf expert takes a look
I’m totally lost on a golf course without yardage markers. Most of the time I’ve forgotten to charge up my GPS, I’ve left a laser at home, and at least I’ve got a guide on how far it is to the pin. How did we survive before technology?
But sometimes these yardage markers, or those big poles that show the way when you’ve got a tee shot or an approach that’s a bit blind, can get in the way.
So what do you do then? Can you shift them? Do you have to put up with it? What about if they’re not interfering with your swing or stance but are on the line of your shot?
I’ve had a couple of emails asking about what relief options are available in these circumstances, so let’s get stuck in…
Relief from movable obstructions and immovable obstructions
A lot of the time, if you’ve got a marker post causing you trouble it will simply be a movable obstruction.
You’ll find it in a socket or a sleeve in the ground, or you can just take it out without damaging the obstruction or the course.
Rule 15.2a (1) says you can remove movable obstructions anywhere either on or off the course and you “may do so in any way”.
If your ball moves while you’re shifting such an obstruction, you won’t get a penalty and you just replace the ball on its original spot.
Sometimes, though, clubs can deem their marker posts to be immovable obstructions. Now we’re dealing with abnormal course conditions – covered in Rule 16.1.
You can’t move them – the clue is in the name – but you can still get free relief if your ball touches them, or they physically interfere with your “area of intended stance or intended swing”.
If your ball is on the green, you can also have relief if an abnormal course condition on or off the putting surface intervenes on the line of play.
But “if the abnormal course condition is close enough to distract the player but does not meet any of these requirements, there is no interference under this rule”.
So if your club committee defines marker posts as immovable obstructions, and one is right in your line but interference doesn’t exist, then suck it up because you can neither shift it out of the way nor take a free drop.
I not a big fan of marker posts as immovable obstructions, because it just causes an unnecessary issue on the occasions where one does end up in the way, but clubs do it for all sorts of reasons and ultimately it’s up to them.
As always, make sure you look at the Local Rules to work out how your club is handling marker posts before you start picking them up and possibly risking a penalty.
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