Rules Guy: Can you replace a loose impediment that was removed by your playing partner?

What do the rules say about replacing a previously-removed loose impediment?

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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.

On a gusty day, the wind had blown a branch just behind the hole on the low side of a sloping green. The first player up had a long putt from above the hole and wanted to leave the branch in place as a backstop. We agreed, thinking he wasn’t obligated to remove a loose impediment. The next player to go was below the hole, blocked by the branch, which he removed. You guessed it: The third player was above the hole, and he wanted the branch returned to where it had been to get the same advantage as the first player. We were baffled. —Jimmy Jackson, Charlottesville, Va.

Jimmy, please allow me to un-baffle you: The third player can indeed have the branch put back.

Ball on green
Rules Guy: Is backstopping legal in four-ball match play?
By: Rules Guy

Under Interpretation 8.1(d)1/2 (yes, seriously — the Rules are nothing if not thorough), a player is generally entitled to the conditions that existed when the ball came to rest. Since the conditions affecting his stroke had worsened, the stick could be re-stuck.

Read on for more putting-green guidance from our guru …

I was playing a match the other day and had a slick downhill putt to win a hole. If the putt doesn’t hit the hole, it will roll off the green. Wind had deposited some debris — leaves and sticks — near the hole, which I decided to keep in place, since they might slow the ball down in the event my putt missed. As my putt rolled toward the cup, it became apparent that it would indeed miss. My opponent rushed in to clear the debris, and sure enough my ball rolled back into the fairway. I don’t believe I broke a rule, as I didn’t place the items there. Did my opponent?
—Daryle Peterson, Pompton Plains, N.J. 

It’s like Oscar Madison and Felix Unger had a golf match! (Google it, kids.)

You, Oscar/Daryle, are indeed in the clear, since a player is entitled to play the course as he finds it. Yes, even if he’s leaving loose impediments in place to act as a potential backstop.

Meanwhile, Felix has breached Rule 11.3 — you can’t take action to deliberately affect what’s happening with a ball once it’s in motion. The penalty? Loss of hole … and 40 lashes with a feather duster!

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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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