Referee Challenge: Loose Impediments

We know you can remove loose impediments anywhere on the course now, but we need to take care that our ball doesn’t move when doing so – if it does we get a one stroke penalty and must replace the ball exactly where it was. If we don’t move it back and then play it we would get the general penalty (2 strokes or loss of hole).

What is the ruling if I take the actions shown in the video?

9 thoughts on “Referee Challenge: Loose Impediments

  1. Highly qualified R&A referees have assured us that this is acceptable and doesn’t breach the rule, however they failed to point out exactly where in the rules it says so. I will be interested to see if a suitable and convincing explanation is posted.

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  2. Nigel, Don, and I were all at the Level 3 Rules School where this was demonstrated, so it is difficult to argue with the 1 stroke penalty stated by the highly qualified and experienced R&A referee. However it did not sit comfortably with us at the time and did raise quite a few questions.

    If I can run through my interpretation and the applicable rules.

    I have moved the ball as a result of removing a loose impediment (LI from now on ). Under 15.1b it is very clear that I have incurred a 1 stroke penalty under 9.4b and that I must REPLACE the ball on its original spot.

    15.1a Exception 1 prohibits the removal of LI’s from where the ball must be replaced if the removal of that LI would have been likely to cause the ball to move in the first place (my paraphrase). Interpretation 15.1a/3 enlarges on this – especially differentiating between REPLACING and PLACING the ball.

    All of this, for me, indicates that the removal of the remaining leaves is a breach of 15.1a Ex1. We then need to argue if the two acts (1. initial careful removal causing ball to move, & 2. wholesale removal) are related or unrelated under 1.3c(4). I would argue that if the player is aware that causing the ball to move by removing a LI is a breach (evidenced by their careful approach in the first instance) then they become aware of the breach as soon as the ball moves, and so the second action is unrelated due to that intervening event. This would give rise to a second 1 stroke penalty.

    The unfairness in this approach comes if you compare this scenario with the player who decides to accept the one stroke penalty and so sweeps the whole lot away in one go (in effect deliberately moving the ball) and then replacing it – they would only incur the 1 penalty stroke and get the same result.

    So, in conclusion, I can’t read the rule book, as currently written, to agree with the decision that we were demonstrated, but can sort of understand it from a “fairness” point of view. You might also consider that under Rule 8.1c penalties can be avoided by restoring conditions that affect the stroke, but you can’t avoid this penalty by putting the LI and the ball back in place. Maybe this might have been an overall “fairer” approach?

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  3. Rules 15.1b/15.1a/14.2c seem to suggest that two, 1 stroke penalties are incurred – one for initially moving the ball whist removing LI’s and another penalty for removing the remaining LI’s under Exception 1 to 15.1a.
    Hopefully someone can clarify this – thank you

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  4. Hi Bob

    I agree with you that two one-stroke penalties would be logical under the rules. This would have been my interpretation (as well as Nigel & Don’s) if we hadn’t been taken through this specific example by some of the R&A’s finest on our Level 3 TARS.

    The explanation given was a combination of “the penalty for removing LI’s has already been incurred and while the ball must be replaced in its lie, the remaining LI’s do not form part of that lie and so no further penalty is incurred for removing them” along with “if the player had simply swept everything away in one movement hen it would only have been a one stroke penalty so the player should not be penalised further for trying not to breach the rules”.

    We also need to understand that the Rules (and even the Interpretations) are not intended to cover every scenario or they would be far too thick. The (often unwritten) “intent” of the rule can then become important. In this case, it was argued that the exception was intended to prevent a player marking the ball for another reason (e.g. to identify it), lifting the ball and then removing the offending LI’s before replacing the ball. I don’t know how you get to understand this unwritten “intent” without going on a TARS.

    It did cause a lot of discussion, but the authorities telling us that it was just a single 1 stroke penalty were all experienced at the highest level (all of them having refereed multiple major championships) and a couple of them had been part of the team that had written the 2019 rule book.

    This may or may not satisfy you, but it is what it is!

    Stuart

    (NB the post above from “Saturday Golf” is also from me)

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    1. FYI – please see below a response from a R&A Rules contact of mine – although it does differ from the ruling given to you guys, I have no intention of taking this any further?
      “The player would certainly get a second penalty stroke in this situation as there was an intervening event between the breaches. I.e. the player was aware of the ball moving and that it was a breach which means that the subsequent removal of the rest of the loose impediments would result in a second penalty”

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  5. FYI – please see below a response from a R&A Rules contact of mine – although it does differ from the ruling given to you guys, I have no intention of taking this any further?

    “The player would certainly get a second penalty stroke in this situation as there was an intervening event between the breaches. I.e. the player was aware of the ball moving and that it was a breach which means that the subsequent removal of the rest of the loose impediments would result in a second penalty”

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    1. Hi Bob – I think the majority of the referees being taught at the TARS agreed with your R&A contact and there was quite an ongoing debate on the topic. All I can conclude is that no referee is perfect and we all have given, and will give, “bad” rulings. If I were ever to observe this particular situation in competition I would be straight on the radio asking for advice from all the other available refs.

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