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Rules of Golf explained: A mower chewed up my ball – what do I do?

Has your lovely TP5 been gobbled up by the blades of a grass cutter? Our expert tries to steer you in the right direction
 

The grass is growing, the mowers are out in earnest, and every now and then our ball is in danger of becoming a casualty of one of those big blades. It’s just the way it is.

But do the Rules of Golf heap misery on you as you collected the pieces of your shredded pearly globe?

Sheila O’Sullivan sent me the following email. “I was playing in a local club competition and the greenkeepers mowed up my ball. It was my second shot and I could clearly see the ball but when I got there it had disappeared and the mower was mowing around that area. 

“I dropped another ball where I had seen it land and took a stroke penalty, however I’ve since got a call from the committee to say I should have gone back to where I’d taken the shot from.

“This member was coming after me and found the ball cut in half which had obviously been spat out later by the mower.”

So what should you do if your ball becomes an unfortunate victim of a lawnmower’s blades? Let’s get stuck in…

Rules of Golf explained: Ball lifted or moved by an outside influence

These kind of scenarios, which really aren’t that uncommon, might sound complicated but can be pretty straightforward to sort out. A mower would be an outside influence and Rule 9.6 comes into play.

If an outside influence has lifted or moved a player’s ball, there’s no penalty and the ball must be replaced on its original spot (or estimated if that’s not known).

That’s the case whether the ball has been found or not, so if the mower has vacuumed it up and it’s vanished, don’t despair. You can also take a peek at Rule 14.2 to learn about replacing a ball on a spot and when you’re able to use ‘another ball’.

But there is one very key fact in all of this that you’ve got to take into account. You have to know, or be virtually certain, that an outside influence has lifted or moved your ball.

I’ve been through the definition of this a few times – and you can go into more of the detail here – but essentially you – or someone else – has got to have seen the event happen, or it must be at least 95 per cent likely that it happened.

If you can’t do that, and the ball is then lost, you’ve got no choice other than to take stroke-and-distance relief.

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 and I’ll feature the best in this column. I’ve obviously been quite popular in recent weeks as I’ve got a huge backlog of enquiries and I’ll try to come back to you in due course.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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