Loose Impediments - clarification
We are often asked: what is the difference between a loose impediment, an movable obstruction and an immovable obstruction? Perhaps the following three examples will help make things clear.|
1. The picture on the left is a prima facie case of a loose impediment - or so we thought. A car falling accidentally into a bunker is surely no different from a leaf, an empty bag of crisps or a newspaper?
Think again. "Loose impediments" - according to the Definitions of the Rules of Golf, are natural objects such as stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like, dung, worms and insects and casts or heaps made by them, provided they are not fixed or growing, are not solidly embedded and do not adhere to the ball.
So it must be an obstruction ("An obstruction is anything artificial" - RoG). But movable or immovable? That at least seems clear enough. "An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise, it is an immovable obstruction. Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule declaring a movable obstruction to be an immovable obstruction."
Now we're getting somewhere! If the car keys are in the ignition and/or if you are playing in a foursome or fourball of fit young men, this would be a moveable obstruction. If however you are playing singles, or even a fourball with three other seven-stone weaklings, then it is an immovable obstruction, unless you are looking for a hernia. Or unless the Committee has made a local rule to that effect beforehand.
So, if it is movable, apply rule 24-1 (you'll find them all here). If immovable, apply rule 24-2. Remembering, of course, that you are in a bunker, and "that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker".
2. Anyone finding a comatose Paraguayan (this is Carlos Franco) on his line as he prepares to putt would naturally consider this an obstruction.
Given the risk of waking him up while trying to move him, and thereby incurring his wrath, you would also deem him to be an immovable obstruction, and seek relief under Rule 24-2 (iii), which stipulates that "If the ball lies on the putting green, the player shall lift the ball and place it at the nearest point of relief which is not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief may be off the putting green." But you'd be wrong (and therefore subject to a penalty for breach of rule: In Match play - Loss of hole; In Stroke play - Two strokes.)
Mr Franco, appearances notwithstanding, is a "natural object" (ref. "..and the like, dung, worms and insects and casts or heaps made by them..."), and as such deemed to be a loose impediment. He may therefore be removed without penalty, albeit not without arguement.
3. A nice easy one to finish with. This is a clear cut case for invoking Rule 24-2 a, which states that "Interference by an immovable obstruction occurs when a ball lies in or on the obstruction, or so close to the obstruction that the obstruction interferes with the player's stance or the area of his intended swing."
Jose-Maria Olazabal is fully entitled to relief under Rule 24-2 b(i): "If the ball lies through the green, the nearest point of relief shall be determined which is not in a hazard or on a putting green. The player shall lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief, on a part of the course which avoids interference (as defined) by the immovable obstruction and is not in a hazard or on a putting green." Why he is not doing so is a complete mystery, but he is clearly taking the problem in his stride.
We hope that these true-life examples have set things straight in your mind. In our next article on confusing rules, we shall look at the thorny issue of unplayable lies.
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