Rules School: What is the procedure for moving loose impediments that interfere with a stroke?

During the 1999 Phoenix Open, Tiger Woods found his ball in a precarious situation. His drive on the par-5 13th hole had drifted left of the fairway and into the barren desert area outside the fairway. To make matters worse, the ball was directly behind a massive boulder.

Luckily for Woods, he was familiar with the rulebook and knew that any loose impediment — no matter the size — could be moved. So, he enlisted the help of his gallery to push the giant rock out of the way so he could play his shot. That’s the theme of this week’s Rules School, as we cover everything you need to know about loose impediments.

woman hits bunker shot
Rules School: Here’s what is (and isn’t) allowed when playing out of a bunker
By: Zephyr Melton

The loose impediment rule is covered under Rule 15.1 which states, “you may remove a loose impediment without penalty anywhere on or off the course and may do so in any way.”

However, if the ball moves during the removal of a loose impediment, your scorecard will suffer.

“If your removal of a loose impediment causes your ball to move, your ball must be replaced on its original spot,” Rule 15.1b states. “If your moved ball had been at rest anywhere except on the putting green or in the teeing area, you get one penalty stroke.”

So, if you find yourself in a tough spot with a giant boulder, just ask the gallery members to move it out of the way. If you don’t have any gallery members, we recommend taking an unplayable.

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Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at