Golf Rules: Immovable Obstructions vs Temporary Immovable Obstructions

Get to grips with 'obstructions' on the golf course...

Andy Roberts's picture
Tue, 11 Feb 2020
Golf Rules: Immovable Obstructions vs Temporary Immovable Obstructions

Ever wonder how Dustin Johnson got a free drop out of the juicy rough onto the fairway when he had a TV Tower in his way during the 2016 US Open, but that you are not able to have the same option when a permanent safety screen, power pole, or toilet is on your line of play?!


Well let’s work through the difference and finally give you the answer, writes

The Definitions tell us the following about ‘Obstructions’:

An "obstruction" is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice, except:

a) Objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings;

b) Any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds; and

c) Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.

An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise it is an immovable obstruction.

Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule declaring a movable obstruction to be an immovable obstruction.

The Local Rule for Temporary Immovable Obstructions tells us this:

1. Definition:

A temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) is a non-permanent artificial object that is often erected in conjunction with a competition and is fixed or not readily movable.

Examples of TIOs include, but are not limited to, are tents, scoreboards, grandstands, television towers and lavatories. Supporting guy wires are part of the TIO, unless the Committee declares that they are to be treated as elevated power lines or cables.

2. Interference: 

Interference by a TIO occurs when (a) the ball lies in front of and so close to the TIO that the TIO interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing, or (b) the ball lies in, on, under or behind the TIO so that any part of the TIO intervenes directly between the player’s ball and the hole and is on his line of play; interference also exists if the ball lies within one club-length of a spot equidistant from the hole where such intervention would exist.

Note: A ball is under a TIO when it is below the outermost edges of the TIO, even if these edges do not extend downwards to the ground.

The MAIN difference between the two is that Immovable Obstructions are permanent and Temporary Immovable Obstructions are, yes you guessed it, temporary.

So who makes that distinction? 

The club in charge of the course or the Committee in charge of the competition is who decides as to whether something is permanent or temporary. But this is a relatively easy answer, based on whether that Immovable Obstruction is there the whole year, or only during the time that a certain tournament is being played.  

The idea is that if it is a permanent fixture, then players must get used to playing around or over it, whereas if it is temporary, the players may be affected by the location of the Obstruction.

For an obstruction that would not usually be there, think back to Sergio Garcia at the 2017 BMW Championship - see video above.

Garcia was going to attempt to play a shot off a rock that would deflect backwards toward the greens. However, he claimed that the wall of the grandstand was in the way of his intended swing, so he was rewarded a few drop.

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