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15
Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (including Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play)
Purpose: 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 his or her ball off the putting green, because there will be a penalty if moving them causes the ball to move.
15
Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (including Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play)
15.1

Loose Impediments

a

Removal of Loose Impediment

Without penalty, a player may remove a loose impediment anywhere on or off the course, and may do so in any way (such as by using a hand or foot or a club or other equipment). But there are two exceptions: Exception 1 – Removing Loose Impediment Where Ball Must Be Replaced: Before replacing a ball that was lifted or moved from anywhere except the putting green:
  • A player must not deliberately remove a loose impediment that, if moved when the ball was at rest, would have been likely to have caused the ball to move.
  • If the player does so, he or she gets one penalty stroke, but the removed loose impediment does not need to be replaced.
This exception applies both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a. It does not apply to a loose impediment that is removed as a result of marking the spot of a ball, lifting or replacing a ball or causing a ball to move. Exception 2 – Restrictions on Deliberately Removing Loose Impediments to Affect Ball in Motion (see Rule 11.3).
b

Ball Moved When Removing Loose Impediment

If a player’s removal of a loose impediment causes his or her ball to move:
  • The ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).
  • If the moved ball had been at rest anywhere except on the putting green (see Rule 13.1d) or in the teeing area (see Rule 6.2b(6)), the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b, except when Rule 7.4 applies (no penalty for ball moved during search) or when another exception to Rule 9.4b applies.
Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 15.1: General Penalty Under  Rule 6.3b or  14.7a. If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).
15.2

Movable Obstructions

This Rule covers free relief that is allowed from artificial objects that meet the definition of movable obstruction. It does not give relief from immovable obstructions (a different type of free relief is allowed under Rule 16.1) or boundary objects or integral objects (no free relief is allowed).
a

Relief from Movable Obstruction

(1) Removal of Movable Obstruction. Without penalty, a player may remove a movable obstruction anywhere on or off the course and may do so in any way. But there are two exceptions: Exception 1 – Tee Markers Must Not be Moved When Ball Will Be Played from Teeing Area (see Rules 6.2b(4) and 8.1a(1)). Exception 2 – Restrictions on Deliberately Removing Movable Obstruction to Affect a Ball in Motion (see Rule 11.3). If a player’s ball moves while he or she is removing a movable obstruction:
  • There is no penalty, and
  • The ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).
(2) Relief When Ball Is in or on Movable Obstruction Anywhere on Course Except on Putting Green. The player may take free relief by lifting the ball, removing the movable obstruction and dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):
  • Reference Point: The estimated point right under where the ball was at rest in or on the movable obstruction.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must be in the same area of the course as the reference point, and
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point.
(3) Relief When Ball Is in or on Movable Obstruction on Putting Green. The player may take free relief by:
  • Lifting the ball and removing the movable obstruction, and
  • Placing the original ball or another ball on the estimated spot right under where the ball was at rest in or on the movable obstruction, using the procedures for replacing a ball under Rule 14.2b(2) and 14.2e.
b

Relief for Ball Not Found but in or on Movable Obstruction

If a player’s ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that it came to rest in or on a movable obstruction on the course, the player may use this relief option instead of taking stroke-and-distance relief:
  • The player may take free relief under Rule 15.2a(2) or 15.2a(3), using the estimated point right under where the ball last crossed the edge of the movable obstruction on the course as the reference point.
  • Once the player puts another ball in play to take relief in this way:
    • The original ball is no longer in play and must not be played.
    • This is true even if it is then found on the course before the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).
But if it is not known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in or on a movable obstruction and the ball is lost, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2. Penalty for Playing Incorrectly  Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 15.2 General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a. If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).
15.3

Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play

a

Ball on Putting Green Helping Play

Rule 15.3a applies only to a ball at rest on the putting green, not anywhere else on the course. If a player reasonably believes that a ball on the putting green might help anyone’s play (such as by serving as a possible backstop near the hole), the player may:
  • Mark the spot of the ball and lift it under Rule 13.1b if it is his or her own ball, or if the ball belongs to another player, require the other player to mark the spot and lift the ball (see Rule 14.1).
  • The lifted ball must be replaced on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).
In stroke play only:
  • A player who is required to lift a ball may play first instead, and
  • If two or more players agree to leave a ball in place to help any player, and that player then makes a stroke with the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes).
[Clarification available:Backstopping]
b

Ball Anywhere on Course Interfering with Play

(1) Meaning of Interference by Another Player’s Ball. Interference under this Rule exists when another player’s ball at rest:
  • Might interfere with the player’s area of intended stance or area of intended swing,
  • Is on or close to the player’s line of play such that, given the intended stroke, there is a reasonable chance the player’s ball in motion could hit that ball, or
  • Is close enough to distract the player in making the stroke.
(2) When Relief Is Allowed from Interfering Ball. If a player reasonably believes that another player’s ball anywhere on the course might interfere with the player’s own play:
  • The player may require the other player to mark the spot and lift the ball (see Rule 14.1), and the ball must not be cleaned (except when lifted from the putting green under Rule 13.1b) and must be replaced on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).
  • If the other player does not mark the spot before lifting the ball or cleans the lifted ball when not allowed, he or she gets one penalty stroke.
  • In stroke play only, a player required to lift his or her ball under this Rule may play first instead.
A player is not allowed to lift his or her ball under this Rule based only on the player’s own belief that the ball might interfere with another player’s play. If the player lifts his or her ball when not required to do so by the other player (except when lifting the ball on the putting green under Rule 13.1b), the player gets one penalty stroke.
c

Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play

If a ball-marker might help or interfere with play, a player may:
  • Move the ball-marker out of the way if it is his or her own, or
  • If the ball-marker belongs to another player, require that player to move the ball-marker out of the way, for the same reasons as he or she may require a ball to be lifted under Rules 15.3a and 15.3b.
The ball-marker must be moved out of the way to a new spot measured from its original spot, such as by using one or more clubhead-lengths. Either the lifted ball must be replaced on its original spot (see Rule 14.2) or the ball-marker must be replaced to mark that spot. Penalty for Breach of Rule 15.3 General Penalty. This penalty also applies if the player:
  • Makes a stroke without waiting for a helping ball or ball-marker to be lifted or moved after becoming aware that another player (1) intended to lift or move it under this Rule or (2) had required someone else to do so, or
  • Refuses to lift his or her ball or move his or her ball-marker when required to do so and a stroke is then made by the other player whose play might have been helped or interfered with.
Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 15.3: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a. If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).
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