Rules Guy: Are you allowed to take free relief from a dirt cart path?

dirt cart path

Can you take relief from dirt cart path?

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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.

Is there any distinction in the Rules in terms of playing off of a paved cart path versus, say, a dirt path, or some other softer, potentially less-club-damaging material?
—John Rizzo, Staatsburg, NY

There’s an old English proverb: “Every path has its puddle.”

Rules Guy takes this to mean not only that it rains a lot in England but also that life always provides hurdles to surmount. As we all know, golf is like life. But we digress.

ball in bush
Rules Guy: Can I take relief from this tricky cart path situation?
By: Rules Guy

The rules are concerned about paths that have been artificially surfaced — pavement, gravel, potentially even sand or dirt if they were put there by someone for said purpose. In case you need reminding, as these constitute immovable obstructions you are entitled to free relief, and you can use the original ball or substitute another one. You need not scratch or ding the sole.

Contrarily, a dirt path naturally created over time by wear-and-tear from carts and walkers, for example, isn’t an immovable obstruction unless the committee declares it to be one and decides to give free relief from it.

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

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