Rule 13 – 2 deals with Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play. The Rule prohibits a player from improving certain areas. What, specifically, does “improve” mean? Decision 13-2/0.5 in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf gives an excellent clarification of the term “improve”.
“Improve” means to change for the better so that a player would get a potential advantage with respect to the position or lie of his ball, the area of his intended stance or swing, his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or the area in which he is to drop or place a ball. Thus, merely changing an area protected by Rule 13 – 2 will not be a breach of Rule 13 – 2 unless it creates such a potential advantage for the player in his play.
Examples of changes that are unlikely to create such a potential advantage are if a player:
*repairs a small pitch-mark on his line of play five yards in front of his ball prior to making a 150 yard approach shot through the green;
*accidentally knocks several leaves from a tree in his area of intended swing with a practice swing, but there are still so many leaves or branches remaining that the area of intended swing has not been materially affected; or
*whose ball lies in the thick rough 150 yards from the green, walks forward and pulls a few strands of grass on his line of play and throws them in the air to determine wind direction.
Examples of changes that are likely to create such a potential advantage are if a player:
*repairs a pitch-mark through the green five yards in front of his ball and on his line of play prior to making a stroke from off the putting green that might be affected by the pitch-mark(e.g., a putt or low running shot);
*accidentally knocks down a single leaf from a tree in his area of intended swing with a practice swing, but, as this was one of very few leaves that might either interfere with his swing or fall and thereby distract him, the area of intended swing has
*pulls strands of grass from the rough a few inches behind his ball to test the wind, but thereby reduces a potential distraction for the player, or resistance to his club, in the area of his intended swing.
The determination as to whether a player has gained a potential advantage from his actions is made by reference to the situation immediately prior to his stroke. If there is a reasonable possibility that the player’s action has created a potential advantage, the player is in breach of Rule 13 – 2.
Frank Guastella, PGA Rules Official Michigan Section PGA
Staff Writer, Mike Fay Golf
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