Golf Rule 24, Obstructions

    Note: The Rules define “obstructions” as any artificial object or surface, like a road, cart path or curb, unless the object defines out of bounds (e.g., a fence), is part of an immovable object that’s out of bounds or is considered part of the golf course.



    Obstructions are considered movable if they can be easily moved without unduly delaying play or causing damage.
  • Examples of obstructions: Steps or wires attached to a boundary wall; a car or cart parked in bounds; wooden, concrete or other artificially surfaced steps on a bank or hill.
  • Examples of objects that aren’t obstructions: Bases of boundary fence posts; boundary stakes, even if the boundary applies only on another hole (not the hole in play); steps with a natural surface (e.g., soil or grass) on a bank or hill; ground raised by an underground pipe or fixture.
  • 24-1. A player is allowed remove a movable obstruction, as long as his ball doesn’t lie in or on the object, with no penalty. If he accidentally moves the ball in the process, he must replace it, without penalty.

    If the ball is in or on the obstruction, the ball can be lifted, the object moved and the ball dropped (through the green or in a hazard) or placed (on the green) as close as possible to the spot directly under its location in or on the object, no nearer the hole. The player is allowed to clean the ball after lifting.

    With a ball in motion, an obstruction that might influence the ball can’t be moved. Exceptions: Any player’s equipment or a flagstick being tended.

    24-2. Free relief from an immovable obstruction is allowed when the ball lies in or on the object, or the object interferes with the player’s stance or swing. On the green only, relief is allowed from an immovable obstruction in the player’s line. There is no relief if the interference is strictly mental.

    Following is the procedure for taking relief from an immovable obstruction (except when the ball is in a water hazard); the ball can be cleaned in all instances. Note: The nearest point of relief is the spot closest to the obstruction – but not on the green or in a hazard and not closer to the hole – where the player can stand and swing without interference by the object.

    When the ball lies through the green (anywhere but the tee, green or a hazard), lift and drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole.

    When the ball is in a bunker, lift and drop it within one club-length of the nearest relief point; the relief point and drop spot must be in the bunker. Alternatively, the player can take a one-stroke penalty and drop outside the bunker, keeping the original spot directly between his ball and the hole. The player can go as far as he likes behind the bunker.

    When the ball is on the green, lift and place it at the nearest relief point that’s not in a hazard. The player can place the ball off the green.

    When the ball is on the teeing ground, the procedure is the same as dropping through the green.

    Players are not given relief from immovable obstructions if something other than the obstruction causes the interference, or if the obstruction only interferes when the player takes an abnormal stance or swing. There’s no relief from immovable obstructions if the ball is in a water hazard.

  • Example: An irrigation control box lies several feet from Billy’s ball. He addresses the ball by standing much farther from it than he normally would, then makes an exaggerated test swing and hits the box with his backswing. Since Billy is making an abnormal effort to cause interference with the obstruction, he’s not allowed to take relief.
  • 24-3. If it’s determined that a lost ball is in a movable obstruction, the player may move the object and take a free drop with a substitute ball (or place a ball, if his ball was in an obstruction on the green). The drop/placement should be within one club-length of the spot where the ball last crossed the edge of the object, no nearer the hole.

    If it’s determined that a lost ball is in an immovable obstruction, the edge of the object where the ball last crossed is considered the ball’s location. From here, the player can take a free drop within one club-length of the nearest relief point (through the green, in a bunker or on the green, where the ball can be placed), or take a one-stroke penalty and drop outside the bunker (as in Rule 24-2).

  • Penalties for violating Rule 24: Match play – loss of hole. Stroke play – two strokes.
  • 24-1. Movable Obstruction

    A player may take relief, without penalty, from a movable obstruction as follows:a. If the ball does not lie in or on the obstruction, the obstruction may be removed. If the ball moves, it must be replaced, and there is no penalty, provided that the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the obstruction. Otherwise, Rule 18-2a applies.
    b. If the ball lies in or on the obstruction, the ball may be lifted and the obstruction removed. The ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball lay in or on the obstruction, but not nearer the hole.

    The ball may be cleaned when lifted under this Rule.

    When a ball is in motion, an obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, other than equipment of any player or the flagstick when attended, removed or held up, must not be moved.

    (Exerting influence on ball – see Rule 1-2)

    Note: If a ball to be dropped or placed under this Rule is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.

    24-2. Immovable Obstruction
    a. Interference
    Interference by an immovable obstruction occurs when a ball lies in or on the obstruction, or when the obstruction interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing. If the player’s ball lies on the putting green, interference also occurs if an immovable obstruction on the putting green intervenes on his line of putt. Otherwise, intervention on the line of play is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.

    b. Relief

    Except when the ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, a player may take relief from interference by an immovable obstruction as follows:(i)Through the Green: If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the immovable obstruction and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.
    (ii)In a Bunker: If the ball is in a bunker, the player must lift the ball and drop it either:
    (a) Without penalty, in accordance with Clause (i) above, except that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker; or
    (b) Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.
    (iii)On the Putting Green: If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief may be off the putting green.
    (iv)On the Teeing Ground: If the ball lies on the teeing ground, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, in accordance with Clause (i) above.

    The ball may be cleaned when lifted under this Rule.

    (Ball rolling to a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken – see Rule 20-2c(v))

    Exception: A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an immovable obstruction makes the stroke clearly impracticable or (b) interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.


    Note 1: If a ball is in a water hazard (including a lateral water hazard), the player may not take relief from interference by an immovable obstruction. The player must play the ball as it lies or proceed under Rule 26-1.


    Note 2: If a ball to be dropped or placed under this Rule is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.


    Note 3: The Committee may make a Local Rule stating that the player must determine the nearest point of relief without crossing over, through or under the obstruction.

    24-3. Ball In Obstruction Not Found
    It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward an obstruction is in the obstruction. In order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that the ball is in the obstruction. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must proceed under Rule Rule 27-1.

    a. Ball in Movable Obstruction Not Found
    If it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in a movable obstruction, the player may substitute another ball and take relief, without penalty, under this Rule. If he elects to do so, he must remove the obstruction and through the green or in a hazard drop a ball, or on the putting green place a ball, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the movable obstruction, but not nearer the hole.

    b. Ball in Immovable Obstruction Not Found

    If it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in an immovable obstruction, the player may take relief under this Rule. If he elects to do so, the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the obstruction must be determined and, for the purpose of applying this Rule, the ball is deemed to lie at this spot and the player must proceed as follows:(i)Through the Green: If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the immovable obstruction at a spot through the green, the player may substitute another ball, without penalty, and take relief as prescribed in Rule 24-2b(i).
    (ii)In a Bunker: If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the immovable obstruction at a spot in a bunker, the player may substitute another ball, without penalty, and take relief as prescribed in Rule 24-2b(ii).
    (iii)In a Water Hazard (including a Lateral Water Hazard): If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the immovable obstruction at a spot in a water hazard, the player is not entitled to relief without penalty. The player must proceed under Rule 26-1.
    (iv)On the Putting Green: If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the immovable obstruction at a spot on the putting green, the player may substitute another ball, without penalty, and take relief as prescribed in Rule 24-2b(iii).


    PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE:Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.