Rules Guy: Are you entitled to free relief from a memorial tree planted on the course?

Rules Official Dillard Pruitt checks the line of sight on an errant ball during the first round of the Buick Championship held at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, on June 29, 2006.

What do the rules say about taking free relief from a tree planted as a memorial?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

I was playing in our member-member tournament and hit a wayward shot. My ball came to rest behind a memorial tree, which was directly between my ball and the green. I asked for free relief, reasoning that, as a memorial, the tree wasn’t part of the course design. I was denied and told I could only have gotten free relief from the adjacent memorial stone. Was that right? —Tim Muldoon, Buffalo, N.Y.

It sounds right to Rules Guy.

Specific trees can be protected by Local Rule by making them no-play zones, but such treatment is typically reserved for young, growing trees. If the committee didn’t make the memorial tree a no-play zone, then under the Definition of Obstruction the memorial plaque itself is the only immovable obstruction and abnormal course condition that free relief would allow for.

Rules Guy also needn’t tell you never to, er, take relief on a memorial tree.

For more relief-related guidance from our guru, read on …

hazard with cart path
Rules Guy: Can you still take relief from a stance on the cart path if your ball is in a penalty area?
By: Rules Guy

My wedge approach landed on the fringe, created a huge ball mark, popped out of it, and came to rest an inch behind the mark. Naturally, that mark was directly on my line to the hole. I’d have preferred to putt the ball, but the depth of the mark made that impossible… unless I can fix the mark before making my stroke. The approach never touched the green — does that make a difference? —Joe Scopel, Maryland 

Indeed, it does make a difference, Joe — if the pitch mark were on the green then you could fix it … but it isn’t, so you can’t.

Please refer to Rule 8.1; you are not allowed to eliminate irregularities that improve your conditions affecting the stroke — in this case, the line of play. You’ll have to take your chances putting or chipping over it … or, we suppose, go around it, but that would just be kind of sad.

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