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remove animal from golf ball

My ball is covered in animal droppings – can I get relief?

Nature been using those fairways and greens as its own personal toilet and it’s your ball that’s come out worse. Our expert outlines your options

 

Be at one with nature, they say. Getting out in that green space certainly does wonders for us – scientists can prove it. But being among animals also means they can have an interesting influence on your game, as Shirley Anders’ email explains.

“We have a lot of Canada geese on our course from around the beginning of September,” she explained. “They leave a lot of droppings on the course.

“I understand the droppings are considered a loose impediment but if they adhere to the ball on the fairway, can we clean the ball or do we have to play it as it lies?”

Relief from animal droppings

You’ve found your ball in the, well, you know. What can you do? Shirley is right that animal waste is a loose impediment.

So, you can remove droppings – in any way – while making sure the ball doesn’t move while you are doing so. If it does, it’s normally a one-shot penalty and you must replace the ball on its original spot as outlined by Rule 15.1a and 15.1b.

animal dung

But animal waste is not a loose impediment if it is either “attached” or “sticking to the ball”. What now? Do you have to hit your shot with a goose’s digested dinner splattered all over it?

Usually, but not always. Let’s say that an entire flock has migrated to your club, and there are areas of the course that are covered in cr… [stop right now – Ed].

If there is a concern about the effect of animal dung on fair play, a committee can bring in a Local Rule – Model Local Rule F-12 – that gives a player the option of also treating the droppings as ground under repair.

In that case, and if you so chose, you’d be allowed free relief under Rule 16.1 from an abnormal course condition.

Remember, interference exists if your ball touches, or is in, or on, an abnormal course condition, if it physically interferes with your area of intended stance or swing or, when your ball is on the green, if such a condition or on off the putting surface “intervenes on the line of play”.

The Local Rule needs to specify the type of dung from which relief would be given – the rule book gives the example of goose or dog.

It also allows, going back to the putting surface, the use of a greens switch or whip to remove it from the line of play.

In this instance, if removing it improved the line of play, “or other conditions affecting the stroke”, there would not be a penalty under Rule 8.1a.

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think about these animal droppings rules? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

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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