One of the Most Misplayed Rules in the Game

Mark Oswald
General Manager
The Highlands at Dove Mountain in Marana, AZ.
Marana, AZ

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One of the most commonly used rules of golf is also one of the most misinterpreted, Rule 24-2 Immovable Obstruction. Cart paths are immovable obstructions and relief can be taken as noted below.

24-2. Immovable Obstruction
a. Interference

Interference by an immovable obstruction occurs when a ball lies in or on the obstruction, or when the obstruction interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing. If the player’s ball lies on the putting green, interference also occurs if an immovable obstruction on the putting green intervenes on his line of putt. Otherwise, intervention on the line of play is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.

b. Relief
Except when the ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, a player may take relief from interference by an immovable obstruction as follows: (i)Through the Green:  If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the immovable obstruction and is not in a hazard.

The error that occurs most often is determining the nearest point of relief.  The nearest point from the cart path is the closest point where you can take a stance and play the shot and not have any interference from the path.

According to the rule, we are to take our nearest relief which is a) not nearer to the hole, b) avoids interference of the obstacle relief is being taken from, this means you must take total relief from the cart path, and c) is not in a hazard or on the green.

To find this point, start with your stance. Take your normal stance on both sides of the cart path where you are not standing on the path or touching the path in your set up or swing. With a tee, mark both points where the ball would be if you played it from both sides. Which tee is closer to the spot where the ball lies on the path? This is the nearest point of relief. From this point you can take your stance and one club length to determine your relief from the path. Drop the ball within the newly defined points of relief and if the ball does not roll closer to the hole or more than one club length, play away. You have taken the correct relief.

Most golfers will automatically drop on the side of the path that the ball is nearest to. This may not be your nearest point of relief and you have dropped the ball incorrectly and are subject to a two stroke penalty in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

Quick review for free relief. Take your stance on both sides of the path, mark where the ball would be and then determine which tee is closer to the ball, take your stance and relief on that side of the path. 

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