Rules Guy: Can you move an OB stake if it hinders your swing?

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

Recently I found myself at a local golf course where my ball landed in bounds but the out-of-bounds post would hinder my swing. As I have done with a red hazard post, I pulled it out of the ground, hit my ball and replaced it back where it was. My playing partner said I incurred a two-stroke penalty as the post was not in bounds and for that reason could not be moved. —Bob Wackerman, San Mateo, CA

Bob, your playing partner got the ruling correct even if his explanation wasn’t precisely on point.

Since it is a boundary object, an out-of-bounds stake isn’t treated the same way as a penalty-area stake. Boundary objects are considered fixed and, under Rule 8.1a(1), may not be moved if doing so improves one of your conditions affecting the stroke, such as your area of intended swing.

When you removed the stake, you had the chance to avoid penalty by replacing it prior to making the stroke (see Rule 8.1c), but once you made the stroke with your area of intended swing improved by the stake’s absence, you got the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play for a breach of Rule 8.1a.

Now that this answer has been, er, posted, we hope others won’t make the same stake miss, uh, mistake.

For more OB-related guidance from our guru, read on …

My ball comes to rest on a tree limb. I can identify it. The limb is directly over an out-of-bounds boundary, and there’s a breeze. Due to the swinging of the limb, sometimes my at-rest ball is in bounds and sometimes it’s not. My opponent says, “Dude, it’s OB!” I say — as the limb swings back in bounds — “It’s an unplayable lie, and I’ll take my penalty stroke and drop right here, in bounds, under the limb.” What say ye? —Dennis Smith, Little River, S.C.

Happens all the time, Dennis…

Seriously, though, once the ball comes to rest out of bounds it is out of bounds (even when in the tree branch), the player is required to take stroke and distance — even if the ball subsequently moves back onto the course.

The only way you could take unplayable ball relief is if you were to do so before the first time the ball moved out of bounds due to the swinging limb and breeze. And that’s not Rules Guy blowing hot air.

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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to rulesguy@golf.com. We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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