Patrick Reed’s adventures with a tree during the Dubai Desert Classic blew up on social media. But some of those ready to stick the knife in couldn’t have been more wrong, as our Rules of Golf expert explains

Put Patrick Reed and a Rules official together and watch Twitter ignite. When the American’s ball disappeared into a palm tree during the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic there were the usual moans and groans on the social media platform.

But there was one line of fire that particularly caught my eye as the inevitable dissection of every cough and spit took place. TV coverage showed rules official Kevin Feeney staring up into the tree with a pair of binoculars as he and Reed attempted to positively identify the ball.

Some frowned upon this, asking whether it was allowed to use a pair of ‘bins’ in that way.

Let’s get to the bottom of it once and for all…

Rules of Golf explained: Using binoculars to identify a golf ball

ball struck in a tree

Your first big clue came when the rules official was actually carrying them. They’re not likely to be toting around a pair of binoculars as a fashion accessory.

You’ll have to dig deeper into the Rules of Golf to get confirmation but there’s a clarification to Rule 7.2 (which covers what you can do to identify a golf ball) that gives an official seal of approval.

It’s titled ‘Identifying Ball That Cannot Be Retrieved’ and the ensuing scenario basically re-enacts the situation when Reed arrived at his ball.

If you see a ball in a tree, or in another place where you’re unable to retrieve it, you can’t assume that it belongs to you. It must be identified as spelled out in Rule 7.2.

Here comes the kicker. This can be done, even though you can’t get to the ball, by “using binoculars or a distance-measuring device to see a mark that definitely identifies it as the player’s ball”.

If your playing partner, another player, or a spectator saw the ball come to rest in that spot after you made your stroke, then that would also count as positive identification.

So if you find a ball wedged in a tree and you want to make sure it’s yours before considering what action to take, don’t be afraid to get out your laser and scan upwards. You won’t fall foul of the rules.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s Level 3 rules exam with distinction, I’ll try to help by featuring the best in this column.

You can read all of Steve’s Rules of Golf explained columns here.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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