Round 1 – Dealing with Movable Objects




In this round of the Short Course, we are going to focus on three categories of movable objects that you might encounter during a round – loose impediments, movable obstructions, and golf balls or ball-markers that are helping or interfering with play. These are all objects that the Rules do not consider part of the challenge of playing the game, and therefore will generally allow you to move them out of your way. Each of the three categories of objects is treated slightly differently under the Rules though, so let’s take a look at what you’re allowed and not allowed to do in each case.

Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions

First let’s define what exactly these two terms mean:

  • Loose impediments are unattached natural objects such as sticks, leaves, twigs, and blades of grass so long as they are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded in the ground, or sticking to the ball. “Natural” is the key term to note here. Loose impediments also include dead animals and worms and insects, in addition to any mounds they build.
  • Movable obstructions are artificial objects that can be moved with reasonable effort such as a water bottle, scorecard, broken tee, trash can, small bench, etc. “Artificial” is the key term to note here. We also have “immovable obstructions” in the Rules, which are artificial objects that can’t be easily moved such as cart paths, sprinkler heads, and buildings. We will discuss these in a later round of the Short Course.

In the case of both loose impediments and movable obstructions, the objects are loose and easily movable, but the key differentiator is that loose impediments are natural and movable obstructions are artificial.


Loose impediments and movable obstructions can be moved anywhere on the golf course, including in bunkers and penalty areas, even when your ball also lies in that bunker or penalty area. They can also be moved in any way, such as with a hand, foot, towel, etc. So feel free to get these objects out of your way while your ball is at rest!

There is no penalty if your ball in play moves while moving a movable obstruction. You will simply replace your ball on  the spot it moved from and play on. Loose impediments on the other hand are treated differently and require the player to be more careful when moving. If your ball in play moves as a result of moving a loose impediment, you will generally get one penalty stroke. You must also replace your ball on the spot it moved from before playing your next stroke. One important exception though is when your ball is on the putting green. There is no penalty here if your ball moves while moving a loose impediment.



So why is there a difference as far as penalty versus no penalty for a ball in play moving due to removal of a loose impediment or a movable obstruction? It really comes down to the fact that movable obstructions are artificial and are not meant to factor into your play at all – the Rules want the player to get these out of their way in all cases. But loose impediments are natural and were once part of the golf course. The Rules give us the freedom to move these objects, but with the requirement to be somewhat careful in doing so. One final item to highlight is what to do if your ball comes to rest in or on a movable obstruction (such as the ball coming to rest on the towel in the diagram below). The principle addressed above tells us that the Rules are going to let us lift our ball and move this object out of the way. You will then simply drop your ball within one club-length of and no closer to the hole than the estimated spot on the ground directly underneath where the ball was at rest on the towel. If this happens to occur on a putting green, there is a slightly different procedure and you will simply place your ball on that estimated spot directly underneath where the ball was at rest on the towel. Note that this is very different than a ball that comes to rest on a loose impediment – in that case you are free to move the loose impediment, but likely will not be able to do so without getting the penalty stroke for causing your ball to move.

Golf Balls or Ball-Markers Helping or Interfering with Play

Let’s shift gears now and look at our last category of movable objects – golf balls and ball-markers that are either helping or interfering with play. At a high level, the Rules will usually let you move a ball or ball-marker if it is in your way. Below are the three different categories of these movable objects with a quick explanation of how they are treated in the Rules.

  • Golf Ball Helping Play:
    • This applies only to a ball at rest on the putting green (not anywhere else on the course).
    • If a ball on the putting green is in a position to help any other player (such as by acting as a backstop behind the hole), any player can require that helping ball to be lifted.
  • Golf Ball Interfering with Play:
    • This applies anywhere on the golf course (not just on the putting green).
    • If a golf ball interferes with a player’s stance or swing or is on their line of play, that player may require the other player to lift their golf ball. This aligns with the principle that these movable objects are not part of the challenge of the game and the Rules will allow them to be moved.
    • Note that this part of the Rule applies only to the player who is playing the stroke, meaning that another player can’t decide that a ball might interfere with the player who is playing the stroke.
  • Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play:
    • Ball-markers are treated slightly differently than golf balls because the golf ball is already taken out of play when a ball-marker is on the course.
    • A player can always move their own ball-marker if they think it is in a position anywhere on the course to either help or interfere with another player’s play.
    • If the ball-marker belongs to another player, the player has the same rights as listed above for golf balls.
      • So if they think that a ball-marker on the putting green might help any other player, they can require it to be moved.
      • For an interfering ball-marker anywhere on the course, only the player with the interference can require that ball-marker to be moved.

If you are interested in reading the text of the Rule that deals with these movable objects, it can be found in Rule 15. And as always, if you have any questions, you can reach us directly at [email protected] or 908-326-1850.


19th Hole – Round Recap Webinar


Thoughts on the Round

For this round, we will not have a Thoughts on the Round recording. For a little context… as we were preparing to record this piece, we struggled to see how we could differentiate Thoughts on the Round from the 19th Hole Round Recap webinar (above). The original intent of Thoughts on the Round was to provide information to supplement other materials in the Short Course. Instead what we realized is that we were about to record a video that would be covering all of the same information that we had already addressed in the 19th Hole Round Recap. This is because we now address all nine questions in the webinar, which is different than Season 1 where we only covered selected questions.   So rather than duplicating the same content, we are not going to record Thoughts on the Round for Round 1. If you are interested in a detailed review of the Round 1 questions, please take a look at the recording of the Round Recap webinar directly above. Thoughts on the Round will return for Round 2!


Round 1 Leaderboard

The par for this round was set to 5 (meaning a perfect score of 9/9 would be -4, 8/9 would be -3, etc.). The leaderboard below will show scores for all who opted in.

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