Many golfers up North play golf until the first snowstorm. In October, we must play into many leaves on the ground, and this may create a few issues with the Rules of Golf.
Ball moves when removing loose impediments
We are not allowed to put a finger on the ball to make sure the ball does not move. The penalty is one stroke for deliberately touching the ball. Anytime we want to move loose impediment and the ball changes position, we have a penalty of one stroke. Except on the green.
Bunker full of leaves
Sometimes we find bunkers full of loose impediments. A Committee is allowed by a Local Rules, to declare a bunker Ground Under Repair (GUR). Without penalty, a player may play his next stroke from outside the bunker. Without this Local Rule, we must make sure not to move the ball when we remove loose impediments.
When we are searching for a ball and in the process, we move the ball, there is no penalty. We must replace the ball, but we don’t have to replace the loose impediments.
When we have a huge accumulation of leaves in the general area, it is possible for a committee to declare part of it as GUR. In that case, a player may take relief without the risk of moving the ball and incurring a penalty.
Ball lost – Bunker or general area
When a player loses his ball in GUR, the player is not penalized. He must determine the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the GUR as the spot of the ball. He then must find the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball or the ball at not more than one club length.
It is possible, without penalty, to search for a ball covered with leaves with a club, a rake or in any way. If the ball is moved in the action, there is no penalty.
WARNING: Losing a ball in leaves does not give you automatically a free relief. Make sure the Committee has declared the area GUR.
Leaves in a penalty area
Since 2019, many golf courses have decided to put penalty areas everywhere. A Committee is not allowed to declare those area as ground under repair, even in Fall with all those loose impediments. When you lose your ball, in a penalty area, the only options are with a penalty stroke using any options available for a ball lost in a penalty area.
It is important to understand the difference between causing the ball to move when you are searching for it (NO PENALTY) and when you are moving loose impediments (Penalty: ONE STROKE).
In both cases, the ball must be replaced. If not, the penalty is 2 strokes.