There are actually quite a few instances in golf where you are entitled to relief without penalty. Generally, this includes areas that are sensitive such as new grass, young trees, flowers, or otherwise, or areas under repair on the golf course. This also includes what we call casual water, or excess water that you are forced to stand in or hit your shot from that is not normally there. The third area generally includes man-made objects that are not movable, such as cart paths, trash cans, or fences. In each of these situations, you are entitled to move your ball without incurring any penalty. The one exception where you wouldn’t receive relief are fences, walls, or anything that mark the boundary of the golf course.
The first thing you need to do is to find the nearest location where you are taking complete relief that is not closer to the hole. Complete relief means that your stance and your swing are no longer affected by the obstruction. Technically, there is only one nearest point of relief possible. From this point, you are entitled to drop your ball within one club length. If your ball happens to be dirty, you can also clean it before taking this drop.
In summary, it may be surprising to beginners that there are actually quite a few places where you are entitled to move your ball without penalty. These areas generally include sensitive areas, ground under repair, casual water, and man-made immovable obstructions. The rule is to find the single nearest point of relief without moving closer to the hole, and drop your ball within one club length.