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April 09, 2012

Should Bubba Watson have incurred a penalty on his winning hook shot off the pine straw?

Posted at 2:36 PM by Mick Rouse | Categories: 2012 Masters, Bubba Watson, Rules of Golf

In Sunday's Masters playoff, Bubba Watson hit a clutch hook shot from the pine straw on No. 10. HIs ball found a way through the trees and somehow trickled to a stop 10 feet from the hole. It will be remembered as the shot that won Bubba Watson his first major. Was it legal, though? Watch his pre-shot movement closely in the video below.


In the video, Watson can be seen moving leaves and pine straw with his hand and feet before taking his stance. This has led some to dust off their rule books and point to Rule 13-2, which states "a player must not improve or allow to be improved the area of his intended stance or swing." A player breaking this rule incurs a two-stroke penalty.

So, did the rules official miss a call that would have almost certainly handed the green jacket to Louis Oosthuizen?

The key factor here is what Bubba was moving prior to taking his stance — pine straw and leaves. These objects are all loose impediments, according to the USGA. By definition, loose impediments are natural objects that are not attached in any way to the golf course. As Rule 23-1 states, "Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty."

So there you have it, Rule 13-2 does not prohibit the movement of loose impediments, and Rule 23-1 specifically allows their movement.

So, there is no controversy here, folks. Please move along.

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