"Hey, that bird moved my ball!"
At the recent Local Qualifying event for the U.S. Open Championship conducted at The Club at Admiral’s Cove in Jupiter, one of our feathered friends found a ball that he just decided had to be his. Coveting his new find, he promptly picked up the ball and flew into a nearby tree, depositing his newfound treasure in a secure spot.
Unfortunately, that ball belonged to one of the 71 players attempting to advance to the next stage of qualifying of the Championship. Now what was he supposed to do?
Well, what just happened? Actually, there are a few parts to this scenario. You have a ball in play and at rest that has been moved. That leads us to Rule 18. To determine which section of Rule 18 applies, we need to determine who or what moved our ball in play and at rest. There are six choices in Rule 18 (actually five since one of the categories fits into one of the other categories) of what may have moved our ball in play. They are as follows:
1. By an outside agency
2. By you the player, your partner, either of your side’s caddies or either of your equipment
3. By your opponent, his or their caddies or any of their equipment (either in searching or not searching-it will affect the ruling)
4. By a fellow-competitor, his or their caddies or any of their equipment (outside agencies, see section one)
5. By another ball
6. By someone in measuring while proceeding under or to determine the application of a Rule
In this case, the ball was moved by a bird. By definition, the bird is an outside agency.
Now we’re getting someplace! That leads us to look at Rule 18-1 to find out what to do. That section tells us that “If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.”
How can you replace it if you don’t have it and where do you replace it if you don’t know the spot?
Fast forward towards the end of the Rule and you’ll see Note 1 that says that “If a ball to be replaced under this Rule is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.” And that is without penalty.
Since we’re not exactly sure where the ball was lying when the bird picked it up, instead of replacing it on an estimated spot, we must drop the ball as instructed by Rule 20-3c (spot not determinable). I only hope the lie is just as good as it was before the bird picked up the ball!
Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.