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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Hello Frank. I read this article and found it very interesting. I had a rules question around improving stance come up in a match today and I would be curious to get your opinion on this scenario.
During an alternate shot match play I hit my ball over the green and into some fescue behind the green. My partner found the ball in the fescue…he could make a stance with no problem and he was able to get his club face on the ball with no difficulty. There was a piece of fescue that was growing between his stance and the ball that was impairing his line of site to the ball, but in no way affected his ability to take a stance or in no way affected his club path behind the ball or the ball’s path to the hole. my partner gently bent the piece of fescue over towards his leading foot careful not to break it as it was living, and used his leading foot to step on it and hold it down as he made his swing on the ball. Again, the club path behind the ball and to the ball was not improved, the path from the ball to the hole was not improved, and the stance was not improved, but the line of site to the ball was improved. No branches were broken or removed to make the shot. Is this a legal move or is this deemed to be improving the stance?
a branch was on top of the ball, can he remove the branch, with out taking a stroke
flatten the area behind a ball in rough with your shoe-2 to 3 inches behind ball. Is this allowed under play the ball as it lies conditions?
Afternoon Mike, l was playing a game with friends, and one repeatedly in whatever position, rough, fairway, first or second cut, pressed the area immediately behind his ball with his foot in a wide area behind the ball, l found this to be improving the lie of his club, less restriction, and improving the ability to strike the ball more cleanly, l informed him l thought he was improving his lie, was l correct to point this out?
when a ball is in a good lie and a player moves the ball with the club for a better shot is that a two stroke penalty ?
In watching the first round of the PGA Tour Championship I was surprised to see Xaner Schauffele scrape a good deal of wood chips that improved his stance on his approach shot on #18. It looks to me he was in breach of Rule 13-2. Am I wrong?
If you are off the green and want to putt, can you tap down pitch marks etc in line w your putt?
My ball landed in the rough 20 yards from the green behind a tree and with a bunker in the path too. The grass was soft but long 1foot high. My ball was visible and quite open but the grass where was was to stand was long. I parted the grass ahead of where I was to move into stance but because it was so soft it fell away easily. I then took my stance on this area and hit my ball cleanly past the tree and over the bunker to the back of the green. Was I at fault to part the grass with my club ahead of moving into stance position