Golf Rules - Unplayable Golf Shots & The Rules That Dictate Them
December 5th, 2016
When playing golf, there will invariably be times when the ball just doesn't go towards the desired target. And when it happens, there are specific rules that determine what your next move will be. Below are three scenarios which involve shots that are unplayable, man-made obstructions, and loose impediments.
When The Ball Is Unplayable
Whenever you face a shot that is totally impossible to hit, it is called an "unplayable lie". The rules of golf state that you must penalize yourself by one stroke. It is inevitable that you will occasionally get a shot where the golf ball ends up stuck under a tree root, inside a bush, etc.
These types of scenarios are classified as unplayable lie areas. In other words, it is impossible to make the shot. Since you are the one to determine whether or not the ball is playable, you do have the choice to make the shot if you wish. However, most of the time you are much better off taking the penalty and moving on.
Man-Made (Artificial Obstructions)
Not all rules involving unfortunate shots end up penalizing you. When it comes to artificial distractions, you are actually relieved from these man-made hazards without having a penalty.
What is a man-made artificial obstruction? It is simply anything that is on the golf course which gets in the way of you making your shot.
Notice that we say "artificial" or "man-made". Such items would be, for example, a lawn mower, golf cart, a rake, basically anything that is unnatural and prohibits you from hitting the ball. You have the opportunity to either move the ball or move the object out of the way and then make your shot, all without a penalty.
loose impediments, as defined by the official golf rulebook, are naturally occurring objects which are not securely embedded in the ground, such as rocks, leaves, branches, etc.
If any of these types of objects are in your way, you may remove them so long as the ball itself is not moved. By moving the ball, you have just given yourself a one-stroke penalty.
Do not mistake items which are still growing as loose impediments. For example, a particular patch of grass or a plant that is obviously embedded in the ground cannot be just ripped out in order for you to make your shot. That would be considered cheating. Other such items which cannot be classified as loose impediments and removed are replaced divots and loose soil (on the fairway).