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golf ball hits person

My ball hit another person – what happens now?

If you’re a tour star, you sign a glove for them. For the rest of you, apologise profusely. But what about your next shot? Our rules expert Steve Carroll has the answer

 

When people talk about shooting from the hip, I’m not quite sure this is what they mean. Hideki Matsyama’s drive, from the 10th hole at Liberty National in the second round of the 2021 Northern Trust, went right, bounced a couple of times on a path, between the legs of a spectator, and up into his shirt.

Incredibly, it stayed there and Matsuyama, unsurprisingly, needed a rules official to sort it all out.

Obviously, he’s not playing the ball as it lies – it’s not Happy Gilmore – but how did he get relief and how would you use the rule in, well, less extreme circumstances?

Let’s take a look…

Scott Hoch golf ball hits person

Golf ball hits person: Here’s what happens when your ball strikes someone

While you’ll probably never have to extricate your ball from someone’s clothing, it’s far more likely a shot you hit might strike someone or something. (Remember to always shout ‘fore’!)

Rule 11.1 covers when a ball in motion accidentally hits a person or an outside influence.

There is no penalty, and that’s the case even if the ball hits the player themselves, an opponent or any other player, their caddies or their equipment.

Most of the time, if this happens you are going to be playing the ball as it lies but there are a couple of exceptions and one of those came into play for Matsuyama.

If the ball comes to rest on any person, animal, or outside influence – and being secreted up someone’s shirt would qualify – and is being played from anywhere except the green relief must be taken.

So what do you do? You find the estimated point where the ball first came to rest on that person, animal or outside influence. That’s your reference point.

You then have a one club relief area to carry out a drop. Remember that can’t be any nearer the hole than the reference point and it’s got to be in the same area of the course as that point.

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.

Golf ball hits person? What do you think about this rule? 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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