It's a more common scenario than you might expect. Our Rules of Golf guru explains what happens next
Sometimes I need to hold my hands up. This situation, described over email by Evan Cantor, has popped up a few times in various different guises in my inbox over the last few months…
“During stroke play, I hit my ball into the rough. When I located my ball, the logo, number, and my personal marking were visible so I correctly identified my ball without disturbing it. When I hit my shot from the rough I also hit – with the same swing – another, second ball, that was directly under my ball. This second ball was not mine nor visible prior to my hitting it due to my ball being above it and the grass of the rough being around it.”
Yet I’ve not addressed it, dear reader. Why? Because I couldn’t quite seem to locate the answer when rolling round the rule book. It does happen.
So I’m grateful to the USGA Rules team, for coming to the rescue after someone popped a similar scene, this time in a penalty area, into their online Facebook Rules of Golf discussion group.
Some of you may be wondering whether you faced a sanction here. Evan thought it might be two-strokes for hitting a wrong ball.
But this is what the USGA had to say about the similar scenario: “No penalty. The player only intended to strike his own ball and therefore a stroke was not made at the unknown abandoned wrong ball.”
Let’s see if we can figure this out a bit further. A stray ball is defined in the rules as a wrong ball, yet an abandoned ball is also a movable obstruction.
But the definition of stroke is the “forward movement of the club made to strike the ball”. There is intent there and an interpretation to the definition says as much: “starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball”.
So the hidden, abandoned, ball would be classed as a wrong ball if a stroke was made at it. That’s not what has happened here. The stroke has been made at the player’s own ball.
Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?
Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.
If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. I’m still inundated with requests and trying to get through them.
Just to reiterate, I continue to receive emails from players hoping I can intervene in a club rules dispute. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t do that and would direct those players either to their county or to the rules department at the R&A for a definitive judgement.
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