We’ve all been there. You hit a wayward drive in which the ball comes to rest near a tree or bush. You have a stance if you can use your butt or backside to push the bush or tree branches back. We know we are still in the hole because we are getting a stroke and simply have to chip out to salvage a bogey, net par. Is it legal to move the branches on the bush or tree with your butt and push some branches back with your arm?
Under the rules of golf, you can take your natural stance when attempting to hit the ball. If your backside moves tree or bush branches when you take your stance, this is legal. If you have to move a tree or bush branch with your hand because it is obstructing the path of the ball to the green, that is illegal. Here is a video that explains it:
So, if you move the bush or tree branches to get a better swing path you will incur a two stroke penalty in a stroke play tournament. In a match play event, you will lose the hole.
Over the course of my golf career, I have seen everything from playing partners holding branches back while their partner swings to people basically weed eating the tree with a club to make certain branches do not affect that backswing or follow through.
Understand that once you take your stance, you do not have to avoid the branches with your swing. You can even practice swing to see how the branches are going to affect your swing path. That said, you can not viciously swing back and forth trying to knock some of these branches out of the way.