During the final round of the European Tour’s 2017 Hero Indian Open contested at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon, India, Englishman David Horsey used an iron for his tee shot on the downhill 357-yard par-4 9th hole. As Horsey’s ball was flying through the air toward the landing zone, a Rules Official happened to be driving his golf cart down the left side of the fairway apparently oblivious to the players on the tee.
As illustrated in the adjacent photographs courtesy of The European Tour, Horsey’s ball landed just to the left of the golf cart, bounced to the right, and struck the chest of the Rules Official. With his cart still in motion, the Rules Official watched as the ball briefly bounced around on the floor of his cart until it finally rolled over the side of the cart and onto the fairway. Before driving away, the Rules Official turned around and no doubt with some embarrassment acknowledged “My bad” by waiving back to the players on the teeing ground.
This scenario involves a ball in motion being deflected by an outside agency, i.e., the Rules Official and his golf cart. As described in the Definition of “Outside Agency,” “In stroke play, an outside agency is any agency other than the competitor’s side, any caddie of the side, any ball played by the side at the hole being played or any equipment of the side. An outside agency includes a referee, a marker, an observer and a forecaddie.”
Rule 19-1 [Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by Outside Agency] is the applicable Rule for this scenario. This Rule states, “If a player’s ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies ….” Thus, Horsey was required to play his ball from the spot where it came to rest in the fairway after it fell out of the cart.
What would have been the ruling if Horsey’s ball had not bounced out of the cart, but had come to rest somewhere within the moving golf cart? For example, let’s say his ball bounced into the Rules Official’s bag lying on the floor of the golf cart. And what would have been the ruling if the Rules Official had either stopped the cart immediately or continued on his way and parked his cart behind the putting green with Horsey’s ball resting somewhere within the cart?
Both of these questions are answered by Rule 19-1a which states, “If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke other than on the putting green comes to rest in or on any moving or animate outside agency, the ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped … as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball came to rest in or on the outside agency, but not nearer the hole ….”
Thus, if Horsey’s ball had come to rest somewhere within the cart, he would have been required to drop his ball as near as possible to the spot directly under the estimated place where his ball was located when it came to rest within the golf cart