Model Local Rule F-5: Immovable Obstructions Close to Putting Greens

I get a lot of questions about sprinkler heads around greens, so let’s talk about it!

Any sprinkler head on the course is an immovable obstruction where you get free relief under Rule 16.1 as long as your ball is not in a Penalty Area. If the sprinkler head interferes with your ball, your stance or your area of intended swing, you find the nearest point of complete relief, and drop within one club-length, no closer to the hole.

In the RARE case that your ball in ON the putting green, and there is a sprinkler head, either on or off the green, that is on your line of play, you also get relief under Rule 16.1.  In this case, you place your ball on the nearest point where the sprinkler head is not on your line.

What’s more common is that your ball is on the fringe around the green and you want to use your putter, but there’s a sprinkler head that interferes with your line of play. Because your ball is NOT ON the putting green, you don’t get free relief for the sprinkler head on your line of play under Rule 16.1. This is when you hope to find Model Local Rules F-5 on your Notice to Competitors!

Here’s what the USGA says is the purpose for MLR F-5:

“..if the aprons or fringes of putting greens are cut short enough that putting from off the green is likely to be a common choice of a stroke, immovable obstructions (sprinkler heads) that are close to the putting green may interfere with such strokes. In that case, the Committee can choose to give an extra relief option under Rule 16.1 when the player’s ball lies in the general area and an immovable obstruction close to the putting green is on the player’s line of play.”

Your Rules Committee here at TPWGC has MLR F-5 in effect as a Local Rule for both the North and South Course.

How is the local rule applied and what are the limitations?

MLR F-5 allows a player to take relief under Rule 16.1B if the immovable obstruction (sprinkler head) is:

  1. On your line of play AND
  2. Within two club-lengths from the putting green  AND
  3. Within two club-lengths from your ball

You cannot choose a line of play that is clearly unreasonable. 

Fun fact: In rules official lingo, we call this the “2+2” rule, as a reminder of limitations 2 and 3 listed above.

Taking Relief

Relief from immovable obstructions in line of play around the green

If the situation meets the 3 requirements, take relief under Rule 16.1.
Find the nearest point of complete relief and drop within one club-length of that point, no closer to the hole.
You cannot drop on the putting green.

One final reminder….MLR F-5 must be in effect for you to get line of play relief from off the green, so it’s always important to check for the course’s Local Rules. You can sometimes find them on the scorecard, posted at the clubhouse, or given to you as a Notice to Competitors. If you don’t know, ask! Otherwise, you can’t assume you get relief unless your ball itself is on the putting green.

As always, if you have any questions about this or any other Rule of Golf, don’t hesitate to contact me at