Rule 24-2

Relief from greenside irrigation sprinklers

More and more golf courses install irrigation systems around their greens to keep the turf healthy and ensure that grasses are properly watered, to assist their recovery and provide a better surface for putting. Sprinkler heads around putting greens can sometimes lead to confusion amongst golfers as to whether they get relief from them in a variety of circumstances, which I will try to clarify here.

Q. May I take relief if my ball lies on or against a sprinkler head? Photo a) above.

A. Yes, a sprinkler head is an immovable obstruction, from which the player may take relief under Rule 24-2b.

Q. May I take relief if a sprinkler head interferes with my stance? Photo b) above.

A. Yes, as in the first question, a sprinkler head is an immovable obstruction, from which the player may take relief under Rule 24-2b if it interferes with their stance or area of intended swing.

Q. May I take relief if there is mental interference, but not physical interference, for my intended stroke by a sprinkler head? Photo c) above.

A. No, there is no relief for mental interference by an immovable obstruction, Decision 24-2a/1.

Q. May I take relief from a sprinkler head at the side of a putting green that is on my line of play if there is no relevant Local Rule in operation? Photo d) above.

A. No, in the absence of any Local Rule the Rules of Golf do not provide for line of play relief; but see the next question.

Q. May a Committee introduce a Local Rule permitting line of play from a sprinkler head close to a putting green?

A. Yes, Appendix l, Part A permits a Local Rule providing relief from intervention by immovable obstructions on or within two club-lengths of the putting green when the ball lies within two club-lengths of the immovable obstruction.

So, many Committees introduce a Local Rule following this specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 6;

If a ball lies through the green and an immovable obstruction on or within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball intervenes on the line of play between the ball and the hole, the player may take relief as follows:

The ball must be lifted and dropped at the nearest point to where the ball lay that (a) is not nearer the hole, (b) avoids intervention and (c) is not in a hazard or on a putting green.

If the player’s ball lies on the putting green and an immovable obstruction within two club-lengths of the putting green intervenes on his line of putt, the player may take relief as follows:

The ball must be lifted and placed at the nearest point to where the ball lay that (a) is not nearer the hole, (b) avoids intervention and (c) is not in a hazard.

The ball may be cleaned when lifted.

Exception: A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if interference by anything other than the immovable obstruction makes the stroke clearly impracticable.

Q. May I take relief from a sprinkler head on the putting green that is on my line of play? 

A. Yes, you may take line of play relief from any immovable obstruction on a putting green, (but it would be unusual to have a sprinkler head located on a putting green), Rule 24-2a.

Q. If my ball has been deflected by a sprinkler head may I replay the stroke, without penalty?

A. No. A sprinkler head is an outside agency and the deflection of a ball by it is a rub of the green and the ball must be played as it lies, Rule 19-1.