You can shift anything during the championship – even if it comes with a penalty. But the players have been told to steer well clear of this
World class golfers can be scaredy cats. Many won’t do anything around their ball that could bring even the slightest chance of an unfortunate conversation with a rules official.
Even so, there is one thing at The Open they’re being ordered to stay away from at all costs – and it’s not their ball or a marauding Just Oil Protestor.
What is it that’s brought down such a doctrine? Enter the Natterjack Toad.
This particular toad is rare. Very rare. So rare, in fact, it’s protected by law. It breeds in just a few places in the UK, and one of these happens to be the sandy dunes around Hoylake.
At the start of this month, the R&A and USGA introduced a new Local Rule that tried to help players when they found an animal near their ball that was reluctant to allow play to continue.
If it’s not defined as a loose impediment – think worms and spiders – then a player can remove any animal that’s touching or near their ball and they can do so “in any way”. They won’t get a penalty if their ball moves while they are doing it.
That Local Rule is in force this week at The Open, but anyone disturbing a Natterjack toad on the links could find themselves in hot water.
It’s an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to intentionally or recklessly “disturb Natterjack toads while they occupy a structure or place used for shelter or protection”.
The players have been left under no illusions about what’s expected of them. Underneath the R&A’s provision that allows Model Local Rule E-13 is the following note.
“Natterjack toads are a protected species and must not be disturbed. They may only be handled by someone trained in doing so. Referees and rovers will assist you if there is an issue with a Natterjack toad.”
At Royal Liverpool, there’s only one person on site trained to handle them and that’s the club’s Links Manager James Bledge.
Competitors, you have been warned.
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