Rule Tip of the Week: Road Scholar

If you are a Rhodes Scholar, then you have received one of the world’s most prestigious scholarships for postgraduate study. The Rhodes Trust, a British charity established to honor the will and bequest of Cecil J. Rhodes (1853-1902), the British diamond mining mogul and South African politician, provides full financial support for Rhodes Scholars to pursue advanced degrees at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but also for their character and commitment to help others less fortunate than themselves.


Although you may not be a Rhodes Scholar, you can still become a “roads scholar” by understanding the various ways that roads may be dealt with by the Rules of Golf. Here is a brief Rules primer to help you on your way to becoming a “roads scholar” and the envy of your golf club!


Decision 24/9 [Artificially-Surfaced Road or Path] points out that a road to which any foreign material, e.g., concrete, tar, gravel, wood chips, etc., has been applied is artificially-surfaced and is therefore an obstruction. Roads scholars understand the necessity of first determining the status of the road in question that is affecting either the lie of the player’s ball, the player’s stance or the area of his or her intended swing. Note the three exceptions in the Definition of “Obstructions” which advises, in part,


An “obstruction” is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads … except:

  1. Objects defining out of bounds …;
  2. Any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds; and
  3. Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.”


Thus, if the artificially-surfaced road in question is neither out of bounds, nor has been designated as an integral part of the course, then the player may take relief, without penalty, from the road pursuant to Rule 24-2 [Immovable Obstruction].


However, if the road in question is out of bounds, then, even though the player’s ball is in bounds, the player will not be entitled to relief without penalty from the road if the road interferes with the player’s stance or area of intended swing. Refer to Decision 24-2b/21 [Interference by Immovable Artificial Object Situated Out of Bounds] which points out that immovable artificial objects off the course are not obstructions. Thus, the Rules provide no relief without penalty for an interfering road that is out of bounds.

Also, if the road in question has been declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course, then the player is not entitled to relief under Rule 24-2. In such a case, the player must either play the ball as it lies or deem his or her ball unplayable pursuant to Rule 28 [Ball Unplayable]. The most famous example of a road that has been designated as an integral part of the course is the road adjacent to the 17th green of the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland.

Occasionally, a public road, that is defined as out of bounds, divides a course. For example, you may have noticed during the 2016 U.S. Open that the Pennsylvania Turnpike cuts through the Oakmont Country Club, site of three PGA Championships and ten U.S. Open Championships. If a ball crosses such a road and comes to rest on another part of the course, what would be the ruling? According to Decision 27/20 [Public Road Defined as Out of Bounds Divides Course; Status of Ball Crossing Road], since the ball lies on the course, it is in bounds unless a Local Rule provides otherwise. The USGA considers it unfair that a ball is out of bounds if it ends up on such a road, but is in bounds if the ball ends up beyond the road. Therefore, the USGA recommends that the following Local Rule be adopted: “A ball which crosses a public road defined as out of bounds and comes to rest beyond that road is out of bounds, even though it may lie on another part of the course.”

June 2017 Rules