Rules Guy: Are you entitled to free relief from a bridge in a hazard?

Bridge on golf course

Can you take relief from a bridge in a hazard?.

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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.

I hit my drive into a lateral hazard, a drainage ditch marked by red stakes. The ditch was dry, so I had a swing at the ball …  except a small wooden bridge was in my swing path. Could I have taken relief from the bridge and, if so, hit from outside of the hazard?
—John Ryan, Fairhaven, Mass.

Driving into a ditch next to a bridge isn’t the kind of thing one walks away from unscathed.

Under Rule 17.3, you don’t get free relief from an immovable object, such as a bridge with the ball in a red-staked penalty area.

Your options are to play the ball as it lies or take relief from the penalty area for a one-stroke penalty.

Rules Guy: Is there a limit to how much loose impediment you can remove in a hazard?
By: Rules Guy

For more immoveable object guidance from our guru, read on …

In a tournament, I found myself in the left trees on a par 5. In my line of play (though not impacting my swing) was a metal plaque the size of loose-leaf paper on an immovable four-foot-tall post. My opponent allowed me a drop to the nearest point no closer to the hole that would take the plaque out of my line of play and sight … but he added that I needed to hit the same shot I’d planned prior to the drop. I thought after getting relief I could choose whatever shot I wanted, even if, due to a better window, it meant a full 3-wood instead of a punch-out. Who was correct? Or were we both wrong?
—Drew Haley, Bethesda, Md.

If your opponent told you to take a free drop off the Brooklyn Bridge …. You were indeed both wrong, because you weren’t entitled to free relief, as the immovable obstruction interfered only with your line of sight, not your swing, lie or stance.

The question becomes whether this was match play or stroke play (in which case you meant “fellow competitor,” not “opponent”).

In match play, you’re off the hook because, per Rule 20.1(b)1, if a player and opponent agree to a procedure, correct or incorrect, it stands, as long as they’re not knowingly waiving a Rule. In stroke play, you breached Rule 9.4 and get the penalty of two strokes for playing from the wrong place.

Oh, and if a competitor ever tries to tell you what kind of shot to play, tell him to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.

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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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