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Status of an Object (Rules of Golf)

Sometimes Rules Committees are forced to deal with objects such as signs, garbage cans, port-o-lets, display cars, etc. that can show up unexpectedly during a golf tournament.  The real estate sign shown here was a great example of this.  To complicate things even further, it was located partially out of bounds.   This particular sign was in fact located along the course boundary left of the 13th fairway at La Quinta Country Club – one of the three golf courses used last week during the PGA TOUR’s CareerBuilder Challenge.


So what would happen if a ball came to rest in bounds, close enough to interfere with a player’s swing?  What if the only portion of the sign that interfered with the player’s swing was out of bounds?  Does that change anything?  If you were to dig through the Rules, you would encounter a several step process to get to the answer of these questions.


Let’s first start out in the Definitions section at the front of the Rules of Golf.  The definition of “Obstructions” explains how this real estate sign falls under this classification as it is artificial.  The definition of “Obstructions” also explains that artificial objects are either “movable” or “immovable” – depending on whether or not they “may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage.”


From this we can clearly discern that this real estate sign is “movable” as it can easily be removed from the ground.  However, is it truly an “obstruction” under the Rules of Golf since some of it lies out of bounds?  The definition of “obstruction” includes a few exceptions – one of which is “any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds.”  By deduction, since this object is artificial AND movable, it does indeed fall under the Rules definition of a “movable obstruction.”


Now that we know what this object is, we can then refer to Rule 24-1 (Movable Obstructions) to find out that as long as “the ball does not lie in or on the movable obstruction, the obstruction may be removed.”  Simple as that!  It does not matter that part of the sign lies out of bounds as it is still classified as a movable obstruction and may be removed by the player – anytime – anywhere.

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