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8
Course Played as It Is Found
Purpose: Rule 8 covers a central principle of the game: “play the course as you find it”. When the player’s ball comes to rest, he or she normally has to accept the conditions affecting the stroke and not improve them before playing the ball. However, a player may take certain reasonable actions even if they improve those conditions, and there are limited circumstances where conditions may be restored without penalty after they have been improved or worsened.
8
Course Played as It Is Found
8.1

Player’s Actions That Improve Conditions Affecting the Stroke

To support the principle of “play the course as you find it,” this Rule restricts what a player may do to improve any of these protected “conditions affecting the stroke” (anywhere on or off the course) for the next stroke the player will make:
  • The lie of the player’s ball at rest,
  • The area of the player’s intended stance,
  • The area of the player’s intended swing,
  • The player’s line of play, and
  • The relief area where the player will drop or place a ball.
This Rule applies to actions taken both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a. It does not apply to:
  • The removal of loose impediments or movable obstructions, which is allowed to the extent provided in Rule 15, or
  • An action taken while a player’s ball is in motion, which is covered by Rule 11.
a

Actions That Are Not Allowed

Except in the limited ways allowed in Rules 8.1b, c and d, a player must not take any of these actions if they improve the conditions affecting the stroke: (1) Move, bend or break any:
  • Growing or attached natural object,
  • Immovable obstruction, integral object or boundary object, or
  • Tee-marker for the teeing area when playing a ball from that teeing area.
(2) Move a loose impediment or movable obstruction into position (such as to build a stance or to improve the line of play). (3) Alter the surface of the ground, including by:
  • Replacing divots in a divot hole,
  • Removing or pressing down divots that have already been replaced or other cut turf that is already in place, or
  • Creating or eliminating holes, indentations or uneven surfaces.
(4) Remove or press down sand or loose soil. (5) Remove dew, frost or water. Penalty for Breach of Rule 8.1a: General Penalty.
b

Actions That Are Allowed

In preparing for or making a stroke, a player may take any of these actions and there is no penalty even if doing so improves the conditions affecting the stroke: (1) Fairly search for his or her ball by taking reasonable actions to find and identify it (see Rule 7.1a). (2) Take reasonable actions to remove loose impediments (see Rule 15.1) and movable obstructions (see Rule 15.2). (3) Take reasonable actions to mark the spot of a ball and to lift and replace the ball under Rules 14.1 and 14.2. (4) Ground the club lightly right in front of or right behind the ball. But this does not allow:
  • Pressing the club on the ground, or
  • When a ball is in a bunker, touching the sand right in front of or right behind the ball (see Rule 12.2b(1)).
(5) Firmly place the feet in taking a stance, including a reasonable amount of digging in with the feet in sand or loose soil. (6) Fairly take a stance by taking reasonable actions to get to the ball and take a stance. But when doing so the player:
  • Is not entitled to a normal stance or swing, and
  • Must use the least intrusive course of action to deal with the particular situation.
(7) Make a stroke or the backswing for a stroke which is then made. But when the ball is in a bunker, touching the sand in the bunker in taking the backswing is not allowed under Rule 12.2b(1). (8) In the teeing area:
  • Place a tee in or on the ground (see Rule 6.2b(2)),
  • Move, bend or break any growing or attached natural object (see Rule 6.2b(3)), and
  • Alter the surface of the ground, remove or press down sand and soil, or remove dew, frost or water (see Rule 6.2b(3)).
(9) In a bunker, smooth sand to care for the course after a ball played from the bunker is outside the bunker (see Rule 12.2b(3)). (10) On the putting green, remove sand and loose soil and repair damage (see Rule 13.1c). (11) Move a natural object to see if it is loose. But if the object is found to be growing or attached, it must stay attached and be returned as nearly as possible to its original position.
c

Avoiding Penalty by Restoring Conditions Improved in Breach of Rule 8.1a(1) or 8.1a(2)

If a player has improved the conditions affecting the stroke by moving, bending or breaking an object in breach of Rule 8.1a(1) or moving an object into position in breach of Rule 8.1a(2):
  • There is no penalty if, before making the next stroke, the player eliminates that improvement by restoring the original conditions in the ways allowed in (1) and (2) below.
  • But if the player improves the conditions affecting the stroke by taking any of the other actions covered by Rules 8.1a(3)-(5), he or she cannot avoid penalty by restoring the original conditions.
(1) How to Restore Conditions Improved by Moving, Bending or Breaking Object. Before making the stroke, the player may avoid penalty for breach of Rule 8.1a(1) by restoring the original object as nearly as possible to its original position so that the improvement created by the breach is eliminated, such as by:
  • Replacing a boundary object (such as a boundary stake) that had been removed or moving the boundary object back into its original position after it had been pushed to a different angle, or
  • Returning a tree branch or grass, or an immovable obstruction to its original position after it had been moved.
But the player cannot avoid penalty:
  • If the improvement is not eliminated (such as when a boundary object or branch has been bent or broken in a significant way so that it cannot be returned to the original position), or
  • By using anything other than the original object itself in trying to restore conditions, such as:
    • Using a different or additional object (for example, placing a different stake in a hole from which a boundary stake had been removed or tying a moved branch into place), or
    • Using other materials to repair the original object (for example, using tape to repair a broken boundary object or branch).
(2) How to Restore Conditions Improved by Moving an Object into Position. Before making the stroke, the player may avoid penalty for breach of Rule 8.1a(2) by removing the object that was moved into position.
d

Restoring Conditions Worsened After Ball Came to Rest

If the conditions affecting the stroke are worsened after a player’s ball came to rest: (1) When Restoration of Worsened Conditions Is Allowed. If the conditions affecting the stroke are worsened by any person other than the player or by an animal or artificial object, without penalty under Rule 8.1a the player may:
  • Restore the original conditions as nearly as possible.
  • Mark the spot of the ball and lift, clean and replace the ball on its original spot (see Rules 14.1 and 14.2), if it is reasonable to do so to restore the original conditions or if material ended up on the ball when the conditions were worsened.
  • If the worsened conditions cannot be easily restored, lift and replace the ball by placing it on the nearest spot (not nearer the hole) that (1) has the most similar conditions affecting the stroke, (2) is within one club-length of its original spot, and (3) is in the same area of the course as that spot.
Exception – Lie of Ball Worsened When or After a Ball Is Lifted or Moved and Before It Is Replaced: This is covered by Rule 14.2d, unless the lie was worsened when play was stopped and the ball was lifted in which case this Rule applies. (2) When Restoration of Worsened Conditions Is Not Allowed. If the conditions affecting the stroke are worsened by the player, by a natural object or by natural forces such as wind or water, the player must not improve those worsened conditions in breach of Rule 8.1a (except as allowed in Rules 8.1c(1), 8.1c(2) and Rule 13.1c). Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 8.1d: 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). See Rules 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).
8.2

Player’s Deliberate Actions to Alter Other Physical Conditions to Affect the Player’s Own Ball at Rest or Stroke to Be Made

a

When Rule 8.2 Applies

This Rule only covers a player’s deliberate actions to alter other physical conditions to affect his or her ball at rest or stroke to be made. This Rule does not apply to a player’s actions to:
  • Deliberately deflect or stop his or her own ball or to deliberately alter any physical conditions to affect where the ball might come to rest (which is covered by Rules 11.2 and 11.3), or
  • Alter the player’s conditions affecting the stroke (which is covered by Rule 8.1a).
b

Prohibited Actions to Alter Other Physical Conditions

A player must not deliberately take any actions listed in Rule 8.1a (except as allowed in Rule 8.1b, c or d) to alter any such other physical conditions to affect:
  • Where the player’s ball might go or come to rest after his or her next stroke or a later stroke, or
  • Where the player’s ball at rest might go or come to rest if it moves before the stroke is made (for example, when the ball is on a steep slope and the player is concerned that it might roll into a bush).
Exception – Actions to Care for the Course: There is no penalty under this Rule if the player alters any such other physical conditions to care for the course (such as smoothing footprints in a bunker or replacing a divot in a divot hole). Penalty for Breach of Rule 8.2: General Penalty. See Rules 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).
8.3

Player’s Deliberate Actions to Alter Physical Conditions to Affect Another Player’s Ball at Rest or Stroke to Be Made

a

When Rule 8.3 Applies

This Rule only covers a player’s deliberate actions to alter physical conditions to affect another player’s ball at rest or stroke to be made by that other player. It does not apply to a player’s actions to deliberately deflect or stop another player’s ball in motion or to deliberately alter any physical conditions to affect where the ball might come to rest (which is covered by Rules 11.2 and 11.3).
b

Prohibited Actions to Alter Other Physical Conditions

A player must not deliberately take any of the actions listed in Rule 8.1a (except as allowed in Rules 8.1b, c or d) to:
  • Improve or worsen the conditions affecting the stroke of another player, or
  • Alter any other physical conditions to affect:
    • Where another player’s ball might go or come to rest after that player’s next stroke or a later stroke, or
    • Where another player’s ball at rest might go or come to rest if it moves before the stroke is made.
Exception – Actions to Care for the Course: There is no penalty under this Rule if the player alters any such other physical conditions to care for the course (such as smoothing footprints in a bunker or replacing a divot in a divot hole). Penalty for Breach of Rule 8.3: General Penalty. See Rules 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).
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