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Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (Including Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play)
Purpose of Rule: Rule 15 covers when and how the player may take free relief from loose impediments and movable obstructions.
  • These movable natural and artificial objects are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and a player is normally allowed to remove them when they interfere with play.
  • But the player needs to be careful in moving loose impediments near their ball off the putting green, because there will be a penalty if moving them causes the ball to move.
Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (Including Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play)

Loose Impediments

Removal of Loose Impediment from Relief Area or Spot Where Ball to Be Dropped, Placed or Replaced
Exception 1 to Rule 15.1a makes clear that, before replacing a ball, the player must not remove a loose impediment that, if moved when the ball was at rest, would have been likely to cause the ball to move. This is because when the ball is in its initial location, the player risks the ball moving when removing the loose impediment. However, when a ball is to be dropped or placed, the ball is not being put back in a specific spot and therefore removing loose impediments before dropping or placing a ball is allowed. For example, if a player is applying Rule 14.3b when dropping a ball in a relief area or Rule 14.3c(2) when a dropped ball will not stay in a relief area and the player now must place a ball, the player is allowed to remove loose impediments from the relief area into which a ball will be dropped or from on or around the spot on which the player must place a ball.

Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play

Breach of Rule for Leaving Helping Ball in Place Does Not Require Knowledge
In stroke play, under Rule 15.3a, if two or more players agree to leave a ball in place on the putting green to help any player, and the stroke is made with the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets two penalty strokes. A breach of Rule 15.3a does not depend on whether the players know that such an agreement is not allowed. For example, in stroke play, before playing from just off the putting green, a player asks another player to leave their ball that is near the hole, in order to use it as a backstop. Without knowing this is not allowed, the other player agrees to leave their ball by the hole to help the other player. Once the stroke is made with the ball in place, both players get the penalty under Rule 15.3a. The same outcome would apply if the player whose ball was near the hole offered to leave the ball in play to help the other player, and the other player accepted the offer and then played. If the players know that they are not allowed to make such an agreement, but still do it, they are both disqualified under Rule 1.3b(1) for deliberately ignoring Rule 15.3a.
Players Allowed to Leave Helping Ball in Match Play
In a match, a player may agree to leave their ball in place to help the opponent since the outcome of any benefit that may come from the agreement affects only their match.
Methods for Moving Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play
When a player is moving their ball or ball-marker under Rule 15.3, it should be placed to the side by measuring with a club, such as by using the clubhead or the full length of a club. This can be done by measuring directly from the ball or by marking the spot of the ball and measuring from there. Some examples of this include:
  • The player may mark the spot of the ball and then move the ball-marker one or more clubheads to the side.
  • The player may lay a club or clubhead down immediately to the side of the ball and move the ball to the other end of the club or clubhead, or place a ball-marker at that point.
In moving the ball or ball-marker, the player should align the club with a fixed object (such as a blemish on the green or a sprinkler head) to ensure that when replacing the ball, the steps can be reversed and the ball be replaced on the spot from which it was lifted. (New)