Playing fall golf among the leaves? Remember this key stroke-saving rule

Leaves on a golf course

There’s so much to love about fall golf, let us count the ways: less-busy courses, cheaper tee times, no more exhausting heat, wonderful fall foliage and, most of all, the leaf rule.

Here at, we’re big fans of the leaf rule, and you should be, too, so here comes our yearly PSA: know what this rule is and it can help you big time on the golf course.

In short, the leaf rule is a local rule that the course you are playing will need to put in place (so you should ask). But if it’s being used on the entire course or on certain holes, it essentially means you get a free drop if you can’t find your ball, are certain it’s in bounds but just, say, buried under a bunch of leaves, for example.

(If this local rule is not in place, then it’s a three-minute search for your ball and if you can’t find it, it’s a penalty like usual.)

That’s the gist of it. It’s slightly more complicated, but you get the picture. Technically this rule falls under Model Local Rule F-14 — Accumulations of Loose Impediments.

From the USGA: “At certain times of the year, piles of loose impediments such as leaves, seeds or acorns may make it difficult for a player to find or play his or her ball. A Committee can choose to treat such piles of loose impediments in the general area or in a bunker as ground under repair from which free relief is allowed under Rule 16.1.”

A guilt-free drop, and you get to play on without penalty. A brilliant rule, no?

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