Under the Rules of Golf, there are important differences between loose impediments and movable obstructions, and it is the latter that we are concerned with in this video feature.
Without attempting to compile an exhaustive list, a loose impediment is essentially a natural object such as a leaf, twig, pine cone or stone, while a movable obstruction is anything man-made or artificial that can be easily moved without unreasonable effort.
On the golf course, this could include items that another golfer might have accidentally dropped, such as towels, gloves, scorecards, hats or other items of clothing, or other carelessly discarded items such as bottles, cans, sweet wrappers, boxes and so on.
If the object (or structure) cannot be easily moved with delaying play or causing damage, it would be classified an immovable obstruction, and different Rules would apply (Rule 24-2).
But it is movable obstructions we are concerned with here, and if you find your ball lying close to or against a movable obstruction, you may remove the obstruction under Rule 24-1a. If your ball moves as you do this, you may replace it without penalty, providing the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the obstruction.
By contrast, if your ball moves when attempting to remove a loose impediment, you would incur a one-stroke penalty and then also need to replace your ball, so you move loose impediments close to your ball at your own peril!
However, if – as in this latest video from our Rules of Golf series produced in association with The R&A – your ball is actually lying in or on the movable obstruction, you may follow the procedure outlined in Rule 24-1b.
This allows you to lift the ball, remove the obstruction, and then drop the ball as near as possible to the spot directly beneath where it lay in or on the obstruction but not nearer the hole. You may also clean your ball before dropping it under this Rule.
Equally, you may prefer to play it as it lies if the ball is lying particularly well on a towel or item of clothing!