Mary's Rules Corner header

Welcome to this month’s edition of Mary’s Rule Corner where we will be discussing loose impediments.

Wait, what? Why do I need to know about those?

Because, in 2019,  there were MANY changes to the Rules of Golf. One of those changes was a lot of relaxing around how Loose Impediments are treated.

First, what are Loose Impediments?

Any unattached natural object such as:

  • Stones
  • loose grass
  • leaves
  • branches
  • sticks
  • Dead animals and animal waste
  • Worms, insects and similar animals that can be removed easily, and the mounds or webs they build (such as worm casts and ant hills), and
  • Clumps of compacted soil (including aeration plugs).

If you read the actual definition there’s a lot more detail. Like, sand and loose soil are NOT loose impediments, but spider webs are, even if they’re not loose. Details! The most important thing to know – Loose Impediments are created by nature; obstructions (a whole different definition) are man-made.

Loose impediments in a bunker

So, what can I do if there is a Loose Impediment near my ball?

You can remove them from around your ball before your make a stroke. You also can remove them from where you’re standing or swinging, or from an area where you plan to drop a ball, so it is nice and clear of debris before you drop it. Or, you can remove them anywhere on the golf course, and in any manner (with your hand, foot, club, a towel, etc.) even if you’re in a Bunker or a Penalty Area. But be careful…..unless you’re on the putting green or searching for your ball, you’ll get a one stroke penalty if your ball moves when you remove a loose impediment (and you have to replace your ball, or else you’ll get two strokes in Stroke Play, loss of hole in Match Play).

Are there any times I can’t remove loose impediments?

Yes, but they are pretty rare. 

  • If you were required to lift your ball off a loose impediment (for example, to let a fellow player make stroke that was very near your ball) you would have to REPLACE your ball on the loose impediment, you can’t remove it.
  • You can’t move a loose impediment that might affect any ball that’s already in motion, yours or any other players.

I’m confused about Sand and Loose Soil….can’t you remove them?

Although sand and loose soil are NOT loose impediments, you have special permission to remove them on the putting green; go ahead and brush them away. However, if you’re on the fringe, you are no longer on the putting green, so you have to leave that sand in place. Otherwise, you’ll be penalized for improving your lie or line of play, and get a General Penalty (two strokes in Stroke Play, Loss of Hole in Match Play) for removing them.


See the following links for Definition of Loose Impediments and Rule 15.1 Loose Impediments for more info!!ruletype=fr&section=definitions&subrulenum=34!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=15


Hope you enjoyed this article about loose impediments.  As always, please feel free to reach out with any rules questions.  Email Me!


Mary Shepperd |  TPWGC Rules Director