Defining the Golf Course

Defining the Golf Course

You are conducting a golf tournament in a few days.  On your pre-tournament visit to stake and paint the golf course, you also spend some time driving the course to look for items you may need to clarify for your local rules sheet/ Notice to Competitors.

While driving the golf course you notice the superintendent has placed a number of rocks around drains located off the fairways.  After driving the entire golf course you have noted that not only are there a number of these placed rocks on the golf course but they most likely will come into play.  

After speaking to the superintendent, you are told that these rocks are placed around the drains to keep debris from being washed into the drains and clogging them.  To remove all of the placed rocks will be too big of a task for his staff and not enough lead time to attempt to remove them.

How should the Rules Committee declare these situations?


Each week prior to the tournament beginning and after all of the rules staff has had a chance to review the golf course, we have a rules meeting to discuss specific wording to be used on the Notice to Competitors and which items need to be addressed for rules clarifications.

Defining the Golf Course

The situation we are facing this week at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

There are 4 options we considered and discussed:

  1. Treat the rocks as loose impediments and the drain as an immoveable obstruction.
  2. Treat the rocks as moveable obstructions and the drain as an immoveable obstruction.
  3. Encircle the entire rocks and drain and make them all 1 immoveable obstruction.
  4. Treat the rocks as part of the drain and make it 1 immoveable obstruction.

Let’s look at the positives and negatives of each option:

  1. If the rocks are treated as loose impediments and your ball rolls up against one, you run the risk of having to take an unplayable lie because the ball may move as you try to remove the loose impediment.
  2. Your ball comes to rest against the rock.  As a moveable obstruction, you would be able to move the rock and not be concerned about moving your ball at rest in the process.
  3. By encircling the entire rock/drain area, the line may not last when pine straw is removed and you run the risk of missing one that wasn’t painted.
  4. If you treat the rocks as immoveable obstruction you run the risk of trapping a player who believes they are either a loose impediment or moveable obstruction and would subsequently be penalized.

What decision would you and your committee make?  The PGA TOUR rules staff wrote a “Rules Reminder” on their Notice to Competitors that read like this:

“Stones around Drains:  Loose stones placed around drains are Moveable Obstructions”

However, you and your committee choose to define this situation or any other you come across, the important lesson to learn is the importance of reviewing the golf course prior to the event and defining specific items for the players reference and communicating with all of the rules officials to ensure consistent rulings are given.

1 Comment

  • Diane Posted April 17, 2017 6:18 pm

    I like your example Mark and the importance of communication with your Rules Team.
    PS. Will cite your example at our French L4 seminar this week when addressing Committee responsibilites 😉

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