Rules Junkie Reader Question: Dew-Covered Sand On The Green

The Rules of Golf, as we know, aren’t always black and white; there is plenty of gray in them as we saw last week with Haru Nomura’s bunker tactics. A lot of what is legal comes down to intent and what a player is trying to accomplish when he or she makes a brush with the rules.

This week, we have another gray-area question from reader Robert O. Robert asks:

I have a question that has been bothering me for some time and nobody I ask can give me a straight answer. It is always, “I think…”

So, the question: On the green is lying sand in your putting line, but the sand is covered with dew. You are allowed to remove the sand, but not allowed to remove the dew. What is the ruling for these conflicting rules?

The rules junkie in me hopes to get an answer.

Robert is right in his assessment that his question deals with conflicting rules. In fact, they deal with conflicting parts of the same rule, Rule 13-2. Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play.

The rule reads in part, “A player must not improve his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole by any of the following actions: removing dew, frost or water. However,” the rule continues, “the player incurs no penalty if the action occurs: on the putting green in removing sand and loose soil.”

To answer Robert’s question, we went to someone who would have to rule on this were it to come up during the course of a competition round, USGA committee member and rules official Missy Jones. Briefed on the question, this was Ms. Jones’ response. 

Screen shot 2016-05-10 at 9.05.33 AM

There you have it, Robert. The sand may be removed from your line while on the green regardless if has dew on it or not, but you must be careful to not go beyond clearing excess dew. The intent of the player once again comes into play, but the Rules allow for some leeway with the loose impediment on the putting surface.

Have a rules question you want answered and explained? Tweet @Wrong_Fairway with the hashtag #RulesJunkie or email your question to and you could see your question answered in the Rules Junkie column.


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