Rules of Golf Review: If I narrow my stance, I’ll be stepping on a sprinkler head. Can I take relief?

Rules of Golf Review: If I narrow my stance, I’ll be stepping on a sprinkler head. Can I take relief?

Your approach shot caroms off a firm green and rolls off, stopping in deep rough. The only option for your next play would be some kind of flop shot. To execute a flop, you’d have to set up in a wide, low stance, open the face fully on your 60-degree wedge and make a big hacking swing hoping for the best. On a good day, you might pull this shot off once or twice from a full shag bag.

But wait! Before you grab your lob wedge, you notice that your ball is close enough to a sprinkler head that, if you narrow your stance the way you would for a standard chip shot, your toes would be touching the plastic cover. Rule 16.1 allows you to take free relief if your ball, stance or swing is interfered with by the sprinkler head (which is considered an immovable obstruction). Knowing this rule can help get your ball into a better lie, you announce that in setting up for a chip shot, you’re stepping on the sprinkler head and want to take relief.

Here’s why: The definition in the Rules of Golf for “stance” is the position of your feet and body when preparing for and making a stroke. In your case, your wider flop-shot stance is not interfered with by the sprinkler head. It would be futile to hit a standard chip or even putt from this lie, so arguing that you intended to try is not a gray-area matter.


player may not use a clearly unreasonable stroke to get relief from an abnormal course condition (an immovable obstruction is considered an abnormal course condition). If the player’s stroke is clearly unreasonable given the circumstances, relief under 16.1 is not allowed. The same principle applies to the use of a clearly unreasonable stance, direction of play or the choice of a club.

The message here is to be prepared to defend your intended choice of club, stance or swing when trying to take relief from a drain, sprinkler head or any artificial objects such as cart paths, irrigational control boxes, etc.

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