QIn Pinehurst, a number of courses' greens have shaved banks. If you just miss a green, the preferred play is to putt or otherwise roll the ball back up the hill instead of pitching it high in the air. There are often sprinkler heads just off the putting surfaces and they sometimes interfere. I know I'd receive normal obstruction relief for my lie, swing or stance, but is there anything to help me avoid interference to my line of play? - Brian (Pinehurst, NC)
ABrian, you're right that Rule 24-2 "Immovable Obstructions" would likely afford you free relief if you had physical interference; however, the Rule also states, "Intervention on the line of play is not, of itself, interference." So, unless there's a local rule in effect, you'll have to play around or over those pesky sprinkler heads.
The USGA used such a local rule when the U.S. Open was at Pinehurst CC No. 2 in 1999 and 2005. It read something like this:
"Relief from interference by an immovable obstruction may be taken under Rule 24-2. In addition, if a ball lies off the putting green but not in a hazard and an immovable obstruction on or within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball intervenes on the line of play between the ball and the hole, the player may take relief as follows:
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The ball must be lifted and dropped at the nearest point to where the ball lay that (a) is not nearer the hole, (b) avoids intervention, and (c) is not in a hazard or on a putting green. The ball may be cleaned when lifted.
Relief under this Local Rule is also available if the player's ball lies on the putting green and an immovable obstruction within two club-lengths of the putting green intervenes on his line of putt. The player may take relief as follows:
The ball must be lifted and placed at the nearest point to where the ball lay that (a) is not nearer the hole, (b) avoids intervention, and (c) is not in a hazard. The ball may be cleaned when lifted.
Penalty for breach of Local Rule: match play - loss of hole; stroke play - two strokes."
Check with your local PGA Professional to see if such a Local Rule is in use. You might not have to play around the sprinkler heads after all.