Rules Guy: Can you move a loose impediment like an old tree stump to assist your stance?

tree stump

What do the rules say about moving loose impediments and standing on them?

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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.

My ball landed close to a water penalty area where I had a very limited stance. There was a large tree stump at the edge of the water that I could stand on with one foot. Is it allowable to move the stump so that I can have both feet on the stump, or is that building a stance? —Randy Lavery, St. Augustine, Fla.

Rules Guy is a little, well, stumped: “Stump” doesn’t seem like the right word for something so easily moved.

Regardless, no, you aren’t allowed to move loose impediments into to position to assist with your stance. That would be, as you noted, building a stance and in breach of Rule 8.1a(2), incurring the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

Had you realized that error before making the stroke you could undo the breach and move the … large piece of wood … back out of position and avoid penalty.

A view of water on a golf course
Rules Guy: Are large stones around a pond considered loose impediments?
By: Rules Guy

For more loose-impediment guidance from our guru, read on …

Under the new rules, are there any restrictions on the amount of loose impediment you can remove in a hazard? 
—Doug Walker, via email

The short answer is no … That said, you don’t come to Rules Guy for short answers, so let me expand a skosh. (Not that Rules Guy is paid by the word or anything!)

There are no restrictions on removing loose impediments, but be careful not to accidentally move your ball, which would result in a one-stroke penalty (except when the ball is on the putting green) and require you to return the ball to its original position.

Also, don’t take so long that you’re put on the clock, please.

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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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