Struggling with an animal near your ball? If you’re worried about moving it you’ll enjoy this addition in the latest Rules of Golf update
The list of Local Rules for Final Open Qualifying contained something new. So new, in fact, that it had only been published the day before the 36-hole marathon got under away at West Lancashire, Royal Cinque Ports, Dundonald, and Royal Porthcawl.
But it’s not just a rule that might help the best in the game. If your club brings it in, it might one day get you out of a tight spot as well.
When you play a sport in nature, it’s inevitable that, sometimes, those who live in the great outdoors will refuse to play ball.
Some animals are loose impediments – think spiders, worms, insects. You’re allowed to move them, in any way that you see fit, but if the ball moves while you’re doing it you get a one-shot penalty.
What, though, if an animal is not a loose impediment? What if it’s something sturdier altogether – like a stubborn squirrel, a grumpy goose, or – at some clubs I’ve been at – something even weightier like sheep or deer?
A new Model Local Rule – E-13 – seeks to address this. When an animal is touching or is near a player’s ball, you can try to shoo it away. If it causes the ball to move while you’re doing so, then it’s been moved by an outside influence (Rule 9.6) and you just replace it.
If whatever is causing the hold up is a bit more reluctant, though, you had an unpredictable choice. You could try and get rid of the animal and risk a one-shot penalty if you caused the ball to move. You could play it as lies – good luck trying to find a stance – or you could take penalty relief.
All pretty unsatisfactory options if you found yourself in a pickle.
With the new Local Rule, should your club implement it, you can remove the animal without fear of consequence (just don’t be rough!).
Here’s what it says:
“A player may remove an animal, other than those defined as a loose impediment, that is touching or near their ball without penalty and may do so in any way. If the player’s ball moves while they are removing the animal: There is no penalty, and the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated).
It will be interesting to see what classifies as “near” – it might rather depend on the animal – but this feels like a sensible solution which may even find its way into the full Rules of Golf at the next revision in 2027.
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