Ask the Rules Guy: Raising the (hazard) stake

Ask the Rules Guy: Raising the (hazard) stake

Ask the Rules Guy

When inside a hazard, can you remove the stake marking the hazard? There is also a line accompanying the stake, and the stake is on the line.

— Brad Loomis, via e-mail

Forced to hazard a guess in this situation (pun definitely intended), most players would choose to play it safe and take a drop away from the stake. While it may seem unnatural and downright weird to be pulling a stake out of the ground, most of the time you are actually well within your rights to do so. Any hazard stake that is easily removed from the earth would be considered a movable obstruction, and under Rule 24-1a, you are allowed to move such obstructions without penalty. If the hazard stake were purposely made unduly difficult or impossible to remove, however (by being encased in or made of concrete for example), it would be considered an immovable obstruction, and you would have to take relief in the hazard with a one-stroke penalty (Rule 24-2).

It’s also worth mentioning that the same logic cannot be applied to boundary stakes. If you remove one of those, you’re subject to a two-stroke penalty (Rule 13-2). If you’re up against an out of bounds stake, then you’re fresh out of luck.