12th @Brokenhurst – On a path (Immovable Obstruction)

The 12th is Brokenhurst’s signature hole. A par 3 usually with a small well bunkered green and the clubhouse watching over from the far side of the 1st fairway. You might have enjoyed a snack at “The Sett” while sizing up which club to play – the back of the green is wider than the front but will leave you with a tricky downhill putt if the hole is cut at the front when the wiser option can be to play just to the front edge. Missing left or right leaves you with a tricky up and down so accuracy and distance control are both key to walking off with a par – or better.

Artificially surfaced roads and paths are defined within the rules as “Obstructions” (and they will be “Immovable Obstructions” as they are not easily moved!). However, do take care to read any local rules as it is possible for artificial objects to be declared as “Integral Objects” in which case they will no longer be “Obstructions”. Granny Clarke’s Wynd (the road that crosses the 1st and 18th on the Old Course at St Andrews) is a well known example of this categorisation by the committee.

If you find yourself on an artificially surfaced path you may choose to play the ball as it lies (assuming the path has not been declared a No Play Zone) or you may take free relief from it as the path is not considered to be part of the challenge of playing the course. This free relief is available if the path interferes with one or more of the following:

  • your lie
  • your stance
  • your area of intended swing

Note however that you do not get relief if:

  • your ball is in a Penalty Area
  • it is clearly unreasonable for you to play the ball due to some other condition (e.g. your ball is deep in a bush but your stance is on the path)
  • you are choosing a stroke or line of play that is clearly unreasonable (e.g. you are choosing to use a driver from deep rough so your heels just reach the path)
  • the obstruction is only on your line of play, unless your ball is on the green. (Check out the following post for details on what to do in this situation)


When you take relief it must be complete relief (i.e. the obstruction can no longer interfere with any of the 3 conditions above) and your reference point is the nearest point of complete relief that is:

  • not nearer the hole, and
  • in the same area of the course

Once the reference point is established your relief area is the area where there continues to be complete relief which is within one club length of, not nearer the hole than, and in the same area of the course as this reference point.

If your reference point and relief area are such that you would struggle to play the ball you just need to cope with it, or perhaps make the decision to play from the path. You get relief from the path and that is not necessarily into a good lie – REMEMBER: NEAREST point of relief NOT NICEST!

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