Let’s have some fun with “loose impediments” and see what we know, don’t know, and what we should do.
1. Our ball is on the fairway surrounded by little pieces of cut grass. We think, “Thank goodness they’ve finally mowed the rough!” We remove them from around the ball, and one piece that’s stuck on our ball. The ball does not move. Penalty or no penalty?
Answer. No penalty for removing the grass around the ball BUT a one stroke penalty for removing the grass adhering to the ball.
Decision 21/2 says that anything “adhering to the ball” is not a loose impediment. The grass is a loose impediment when it’s on the ground, not when it’s on your ball.
2. Your ball is on the fringe of the green and, before you make your next stroke, you remove some twigs, leaves, loose soil and sand from around your ball. The ball does not move. Penalty or no penalty?
Answer. It’s tricky.
No penalty for removing the twigs and leaves as they are "loose impediments."
But a TWO STROKE penalty for removing the loose soil and sand, because here they are not “loose impediments.” You have improved your lie, area of intended stance, swing or line of play. Rule 13-2.
3. Now you’re on the putting green, and you’re very angry because your “lying 3” became a 5. You mark your ball and, on your line of play, there’s some sand and loose soil. Can you remove them, or will it be another two stroke penalty?
Answer. Here on the putting green sand and loose soil ARE loose impediments so you can remove them. No penalty, Rule 16-1
Go figure who decided this, and what do they have against loose soil and sand eh?
Finally a very tricky one …….
Your ball lies on the fairway and a live insect is on your ball, can you remove it?
Yes, because unlike the grass in question #1, it is not considered to be adhering to your ball because it has legs and can walk and therefore is a “loose impediment”. BUT if your ball moves while removing the pesky critter you get a one stroke penalty and have to replace your ball.
The trickiness continues……
Same ball, same insect on your ball, but now in a bunker. Can you remove the insect?
NO. Even though he’s still a "loose impediment" he’s in the bunker and that is forbidden.
However, as he is capable of moving on his own you may wave your hand over it, or blow on it to encourage it to fly away on its own, but be sure not to move your ball or touch the sand. If you remove the insect with your fingers you will be penalized TWO STROKES under Rule 13-4c.
The final trickiness……
Same ball, same determined little insect on your ball, and now you’re on the putting green. Can you remove the insect?
Yes, yes, yes you can.
You can mark and lift your ball and squish him really hard, which he deserves for following you around all this time.
You can blow him off, wave your hand over him, AND you can pick him off with your fingers. Even if your ball moves there’s NO PENALTY.
As long as the movement of your ball was DIRECTLY ATTRIBUTABLE to the removal of a loose impediment it’s allowed on the putting green under Rule 23-1.
Now I’m sure you’re totally confused, but a good Rule to follow is:
When in doubt "PLAY THE BALL AS IT LIES."
I hope this helps you, and please note that I said that the insect was a HIM, no LADYbug would dare to bug us.