Originally Posted by krupa
1) Many of the cart paths at my local course are hard-packed dirt paths with some gravel/stones. Is this considered an immovable obstruction or should I play the ball as it lies?
2) I assume that a rain puddle in a depression on one of these paths would be considered abnormal ground conditions. Is that correct?
1. It depends. If it's simply hard-packed dirt that happens to have some stones/gravel laying around on it, then no. Those stones are considered loose impediments however and may be removed. If the gravel was intentionally placed there specifically as surface material for the path, then it is considered an obstruction and you're entitled to relief. Decision 24/9 applies.
Artificially-Surfaced Road or Path
Q. An artificially-surfaced road or path is an obstruction. What constitutes artificial surfacing?
A. A road or path to which any foreign material, e.g., concrete, tar, gravel, wood chips, etc. has been applied is artificially surfaced and thus an obstruction.
Edited to add that Fourputt beat me to it and added an important note.... that even if it's not specifically artificially surfaced, I've also seen instances where local rule designates it as ground under repair and allows for relief but is under no obligation to do so.