Golf courses are full of critters so it’s not unusual that, occasionally, they get involved with a round. This is how you deal with it under the Rules of Golf
You may not have to deal with mongooses gnawing on your ball, as Tommy Fleetwood revealed when he commented on a pair pouncing on a fairway bound effort at the European Tour’s Nedbank Golf Championship, but there’s a good chance your Saturday sweep could well be interrupted by something making a beeline for your tee shot.
Whether a crow is a bit peckish, a magpie fancies feathering its nest, or a squirrel mistakes your Titleist for an oversize nut, it’s not an unusual occurrence to see your ball moved, or even taken altogether, by something in nature.
So what do you do? Well, thankfully, the Rules of Golf are here to help.
— Tommy Fleetwood (@TommyFleetwood1) November 14, 2019
You generally won’t have to worry about a penalty. That’s not to say, though, that there aren’t different ways of dealing with this issue so let’s go through them in turn.
If your ball is lifted or moved then you are covered by Rule 9.6. It says that ‘if it is known or virtually certain that an outside influence lifted or moved a player’s ball:
There is no penalty, and the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated). This applies whether or not the player’s ball has been found’.
This will cover most circumstances you’ll find on the course but not quite all. Say, for example, a ball that in motion hits, or comes into contact with, an animal as we saw in the case of Fleetwood.
Rule 11.1 applies. It states there will be no penalty to any player “if a player’s ball accidentally hits any person or outside influence”.
The ball must be played as it lies, except in two circumstances. If, when on the green, it accidentally hits an animal on the putting surface, the stroke doesn’t count and the ball must be replaced.
The other is when a ball, played from anywhere except the green, comes to rest against an animal. In that case, turn to Rule 11.1b and take free relief. Take a drop of one club length and no nearer the hole.
If it comes to rest against an animal on the green, place the ball on the estimated spot “right under where the ball first came to rest” on the animal.
Don’t play the ball as it lies as you’ll get a two shot penalty if you do.