Can a golfer move their ball so they don't have to stand in a bush, poison ivy or a cactus?
Golf Culture

Can a golfer move their ball so they don’t have to stand in a bush, poison ivy or a cactus?



Golf is played in nature (for the most part), and so it's natural for golfers to occasionally find themselves dealing with the parts of nature they don't like. Sometimes golfers hit shots where their ball will wind up near or in a prickly bush, amid poison ivy or right by a cactus.

A golfer might have to back up or walk into those situations to hit their ball. That could be really unpleasant. Some golfers will want to take a free drop from these situations so as to not hurt themselves or have an allergic reaction. Is that legal under the Rules of Golf?

Can a golfer move their ball so they don't have to stand in a bush, poison ivy or a cactus?

As it turns out, the Rules of Golf don't offer golfers a whole lot of free help when it comes to golf balls sitting in these unpleasant situations, like near a thorny bush or nasty weeds or cacti.

Under Rule 16.2 of the Rules of Golf, it's clear that golfers aren't getting much sympathy. If a golfer’s ball comes to rest in a spot where they face interference in their lie, stance or intended swing path from a plant or bush that could cause physical harm, such as poison ivy or a cactus, they are not entitled to free relief or a free drop. It doesn't matter if it's going to hurt or cause an allergic reaction.

Now, while a golfer cannot take free relief from these situations, they can take relief with a one-stroke penalty. They can declare what's called an "unplayable lie," and they can then take relief under one of three options:

  1. Going back to the original spot of their last shot and hitting from there (kind of like a yellow-stake hazard)
  2. Taking a drop from the unplayable spot that is two clublengths and no nearer the hole
  3. Taking a drop from the unplayable spot that goes as far back as the player would like keeping the unplayable spot between them and the hole

The one-stroke penalty is added on, and a golfer can then extricate themselves from having to hit out of a nasty situation.

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