Rule Tip of the Week: What’s Bugging You?

Have you just about had enough of gnats, deer flies, and mosquitoes this summer? Well then, you better think twice before coming out to the golf course! Golf courses are home to a vast number of insects, and it is not surprising that there are a number of Rules and Decisions on the Rules of Golf that mention insects. Here are just a few examples:


Decision 1-4/10 [Dangerous Situation; Rattlesnake or Bees Interfere with Play] points out that you may take relief if your ball comes to rest near a bee’s nest or other dangerous situation. However, if it is clearly unreasonable for you to play a stroke because of interference by anything other than the dangerous situation, e.g., if your ball is under a large bush, then relief without penalty is not available and you will have to proceed under Rule 28 [Unplayable Ball].


Speaking of dangerous situations, Decision 33-8/22 [Local Rule Treating Ant Hills as Ground Under Repair] explains that the removal of a fire-ants’ mound will cause the fire-ants to swarm out of the ground. When that happens, anyone nearby is in danger of being bitten by the ants, and the bite of a fire-ant can cause serious illness. Therefore, if your ball is so close to a fire-ants’ mound that you are in danger, you may take relief as prescribed in Decision 1-4/10.


What can you do if you are stung by a bee during a tournament? According to Decision 6-8a/3 [Discontinuing Play Due to Physical Problem], you can discontinue play and may be allowed up to 15 minutes to recuperate. Just make sure you let a tournament official know as soon as possible why you needed to discontinue play.


Did you know that insects are loose impediments under the Rules? The Definition of “Loose Impediments” states, in part: “Loose impediments are natural objects such as … insects … provided they … do not adhere to the ball.” Decision 23-1/5 [Removal of Insect on Ball] clarifies that a live insect that is on your ball is not considered to be adhering to the ball and therefore is a loose impediment.


So, can you gently pick a butterfly off your ball before you make your stroke? The answer depends on where your ball is located on the golf course!


Decision 23-1/5 [Removal of Insect on Ball] indicates that, if your ball is not on a putting green or in a hazard, then you may remove the insect with your fingers or blow the insect off the ball. However, if this causes your ball to move, there is a penalty under Rule 18-2 [Ball at Rest Moved by Player …]. If your ball lies on the putting green, you may take the same actions, and there is no penalty if you cause the ball to move provided the movement is directly attributable to the removal of the loose impediment.


If your ball lies in a hazard, the insect is considered to be in the hazard, and you may not touch or physically remove the insect from the ball per Rule 13-4 [Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions]. However, as the insect is capable of moving on its own, you may take some action, such as waving your hand or a towel over the ball, to encourage the butterfly to move. If the butterfly moves, there is no penalty provided you have not touched the insect while it was on the ball, nor touched the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with your hand, or caused your ball to move.


What if you putt your ball and it is deflected by a beetle crawling across the putting green? Rule 19-1 [Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by Outside Agency] states, in part, “If a ball in motion after a stroke on the putting green is deflected or stopped by … any moving or animate outside agency, except … an insect, the stroke shall be canceled, the ball replaced and the stroke replayed.” [Emphasis added]. Thus, you must play your beetle-bumped ball from where it came to rest. It’s your lucky day if the beetle deflected your ball into the hole

May 2017 Rules