Golf Rules for Man-Made Obstacles

Man playing golf

Man-made obstacles on the golf course pose difficulties for the golfer when they interfere with his swing or stance. Rules established by the U.S. Golf Association dictate how the golfer should handle obstruction by man-made obstacles. Different rules govern movable and immovable objects. When a golf ball encounters a made-made obstacle under certain conditions, the golfer is allowed to move the obstacle without penalty. In other situations, rules allow for relief with penalty.


Man-made obstructions include anything that is not naturally occurring, with the exception of boundary markers. Objects such as buildings, road edges and even manufactured ice are considered obstructions if they interfere with the play of the ball. Movable obstructions are obstacles that can be removed with ordinary effort. Immovable obstructions are permanent structures or objects otherwise attached to the golf course.

Nearest Point of Relief

The "nearest point of relief," or NPR, is the closest point, within parameters, outside or away from a hazard or immovable man-made obstacle. Right-handed golfers find the NPR on the left side of the obstacle, and left-handed golfers find the NPR on the right. Parameters for dropping the ball in the NPR relocation area are defined as a straight line from where the ball lies in or against a hazard when that line is parallel to the hole under play and anywhere within the scope of the swing of the club, the arc behind and up to the NPR.

Immovable Obstructions

Man-made objects such as buildings, sprinklers and embedded boundary posts or disturbed ground due to repair work can obstruct the golfer's stance or swing. Under these circumstances, the golfer qualifies for relief from the condition under USGA rules. For relief without penalty, the golfer lifts the ball and drops it within one club length of the nearest point of relief, but not closer to the hole.

Movable Obstructions

Golf balls landing on or in man-made, movable obstacles may be picked up. Pay careful attention to where the ball is located in proximity to the surrounding area. Remove the obstacle and drop the ball in the same place it was located when it was on the obstacle, but not closer to the hole. No penalty is incurred for moving a man-made obstruction. When a golf ball is lying close to or touching a man-made obstacle, the obstacle may be moved without penalty. If the ball moves as a result of removal of the object, the ball must be replaced where it originally lay.


When a player's ball lies outside a water hazard or a bunker and a movable obstacle lies in the water hazard or bunker, a player may move the obstacle without penalty. If the ball lies in the water hazard or bunker, the player may not remove the ball without penalty. Instead, the golfer must play the play as it lies or move the ball to the nearest point of relief and accept a penalty of one stroke.