Autumn leaves interrupting your game

First and foremost, keep in mind that detached leaves are loose impediments, unless they are clinging to your ball.

Therefore, with leaves in the vicinity of your golf ball, you might want to leave (leaf!) well enough alone, unless…

Unless… You are familiar with these rules:

  1. Rules as Rule 23 – Loose Impediments
  2. Rule 12-1b – Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard
  3. Rule 13-4c – Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions.

On the putting green, you may remove leaves on your line of putt provided you do not press anything down, Rule 16-1a – Touching Line of Putt. Also on the putting green, per Rule 23-1, if you accidentally move your ball in the process of removing leaves, there is no penalty provided the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the leaves. Just remember to replace your ball to where it was before you caused it to move, otherwise you will incur a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two-stroke penalty in stroke play, Rule 18-2 – Ball at Rest Moved by Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment.

However, when the ball does not lie on the putting green, or in a hazard, you may remove leaves in the vicinity of your ball, provided you do not cause your ball to move. If you do cause your ball to move, you incur a one-stroke penalty and you must replace your ball, Rule 18-2.

Leaves that have been piled for removal are ground under repair, Definition of Ground Under Repair. Those are the kinds of piles of leaves that you don’t have to worry about encountering outside of a water hazard, because relief without penalty is available to you via Rule 25 – Abnormal Ground Conditions, etc. In fact, if it is known or virtually certain that your ball is lost within such a pile, relief is provided by Rule 25-1c – Ball in Abnormal Ground Condition Not Found. In taking relief, you must determine the nearest point of relief to where the ball crossed the outermost limit of the pile of leaves and drop within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole.

If there is a pile of leaves immediately behind your ball in a hazard, be careful not to touch the leaves with your club prior to, or during, your backswing. Otherwise, you will incur a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two stroke penalty in stroke play, Rule 13-4c – Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions.

If you believe that your ball is covered by leaves in a hazard to the extent that you cannot find or identify it, you may, without penalty, touch or move the leaves in order to find or identify the ball. However, you must be extremely careful not to cause your ball to move in the process. See Rule 12-1b – Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard. If you cause your ball to move during the search, you incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 and you must replace your ball. If your ball was completely covered by leaves prior to the search, you must re-cover it with the leaves; but it is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.

14 Responses to Autumn leaves interrupting your game

  1. Greg D'Andrea October 26, 2017 at 9:01 am #

    Good thorough post on this but UGH – the rules of golf suck. Recreational golfers should always roll over in the fairway – leaves or not. Unless you’re in a tournament, you shouldn’t have to worry about that stupid USGA rulebook.

  2. Bob October 26, 2017 at 9:07 am #

    Some of the stupidest rules in life, let alone golf. Being penalized for an act of God, with no intention of improving your lie. Being penalized for merely trying to find your ball is a total and complete absurdity. This rule was made by pompous idiots who I don’t think liked the game if they made this rule. As such it should be abolished. And while I’m at it. Any person watching golf on television has NO influence on the outcome of a match Should be made RULE NUMBER ONE.

    • Gerry October 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm #

      January 2019 is for you. Both of these issues are covered and you will not be penalized if your ball is accidentally moved during search. No more call in rules issues.

  3. JDJ October 26, 2017 at 9:53 am #

    following these rules leads to long delays in play as everyone searches carefully for the ball.Far better, if all concerned agree, just drop a ball for no penalty and play on…especially as time is getting shorter when the leaves are falling.

  4. Barry Hobbs October 26, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

    These are some of the rules that drive golfers not to follow them. If you must move the ball to identify it when covered with leaves, so be it! I have played competitive golf all my life and play to a legitimate 8 handicap and I think those individuals who create these rules are borderline nuts!

    People want to play 18 holes in 4 hours max and many rules absolutely prevent that from happening. Why not start with the premise of creating reasonable rules that promote speed of play and enjoying the game. Any rule that doesn’t meet these guidelines…gone!

  5. Mike October 26, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    Agree with all these comments for recreational golfers. Those strict rules are for the pro’s or college. If we actually took 5 minutes to search for a ball the ranger would be furious. Pro’s already play with different rules as it is. They’re allowed to use metal spikes and we are not.

  6. Tom Robertson October 26, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

    I agree with most of these replies, in casual golf play moving the ball an inch isn’t going to give a casual golfer any more of an advantage, a lot of golf rules are mind numbing. even in local comps.some committee members are so over the top it spoils your enjoyment.

  7. Ant October 27, 2017 at 1:00 am #

    I try to learn one rule ever time I play (often forgetting this) as most golfers don’t know the rules, even these 10 Golden rules. I was penalised by trying to play fair in a competition when my ball was under the lip of a fairway bunker. The ball was resting on a rake (thanks to whoever left it there), so I marked the ball and removed the rake and the ball rolled to the bottom of the bunker. When I replaced the ball it in the original position it rolled back. I wasn’t sure of the rule and my playing partners were sure I had to put it back by the mark. Once suggested I pushed it into the sand, but I said that would be changing the lie. Eventually we agreed I could place it in a similar position where it didn’t move and all I could only splash it out over the lip. None of the others in the comp new the rule on this which I now know is to place nearest point in line until ball doesn’t roll (which would have been well away from the lip leaving a good chance I would have made the green). I lost the comp by two shots (but I guess I should have been DQ for signing for a wrong score) …

    • Paul Kruger October 27, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

      FYI for the future ….If your ball came to rest ON the rake (as opposed to against the rake), then, after removing the rake, you should have DROPPED your ball as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where your ball came to rest on the rake, but not nearer the hole. If the dropped ball rolls and comes to rest in the bunker more than two club-lengths from where it landed in the bunker, you would then re-drop the ball as near as possible to the same spot. If the ball again ended up more than two club-lengths from where it landed in the bunker, then you would have been required to place it as near as possible to the spot where it first struck the bunker when re-dropped..

      See Rules 24-1b and 20-2c

  8. John October 27, 2017 at 1:44 am #

    The rules are not the reason golf play is slow. I have played competitive golf for more than 60 years (now 82 years with a 5.7 index) and I play a 2 ball in less than 3 hours and 4 ball in less than 3.5 hours on a premium golf course while always walking, all be it with a pull cart. Carrying a bag is faster but too much for me now. Most of the people I play with are ignorant of many of the rules and break them with impunity. Unless there is an obvious penalty noted by all none is assessed and the game is played in fun (except for the seriousness of winning). In competitions, and with many weekend warriors, the pace is slow because the players have watched too much golf on TV and think they have to wander around looking at all the bumps on the greens (even though they play them every week)before they putt or take umpteen practice swings before they top the shot a short distance down the , hopefully, fairway. Play like we did as children, hit the ball as it lies, go find it and do it again quickly until it’s in the hole. If one has already lost the hole pick up the ball and move on. Anyone can wear metal spikes if the club allows it. The rules are the same for all players.

  9. steve October 27, 2017 at 6:35 am #

    There should be two rule books. One for pros and one for rec golfers. The pro rule slow the game to a crawl. We rec golfers need rules to speed play. And this should NOT be done by the current rules commitee. They are obsolete and need to be benched. Practical and minimal rules for rec golfers. We need to speed up play to keep golf alive.

  10. Doug Bechard October 17, 2018 at 4:34 pm #

    I have a question.

    Imagine approaching a green with a bunker on the left and a large lake on the right. You hit the ball left and lie in the bunker. The green and pin are between you and the large lake. You guessed it. You hit out of sand too firmly and ball rolls or flies into the lake. Where are you to play your next shot?

  11. Gerry October 17, 2018 at 7:06 pm #

    How do the current Rules of Golf slow play? Rules in 2019 will surely benefit golfers but slow play has nothing to do with the Rules. Not being ready to play when it’s your turn is a primary culprit.

  12. jim October 17, 2018 at 7:09 pm #

    I have a friend that absolutely insists that everybody play by all the rules, he knows… But he rolls every ball over to improve the lie .. hits multiple balls into the woods and then “counts” the one that flies towards a fairway …any fairway. When playing with friends, even with a dollar or two on the line .. as long as everybody is playing by the same rules .. have fun!! I hate when playing in charity or other tournaments when the “winning” team comes in with a 61 or lower .. 57 is so far the best four man team I’ve seen.
    Funny enough one I’ve ever played with in best ball.. better ball .. 4 man etc.. has ever done as a team or single ..better than a handful under .. odd isn’t it. Of course, when I find out later that the other teams were giving 3 foot “gimmes” in a format that has none.. it makes it pretty understandable.

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