Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ask Linda #809-Opponent pockets your ball

Hello Linda,

My tee shot is struck towards a lateral water hazard, not certain if the ball cleared or got out the other side (a slight curve to the lateral water hazard). If the ball is not found we all have no doubt that it must be in the hazard as there is no other possible scenario – no rough, no trees, no sand to hide a ball.

A search of the area by our group does not find my ball, so I proceed correctly for a ball in the lateral water hazard. On the fairway of the next hole I notice one of my opponents is playing the very ball that was "not found" previously. It is my brand, model, ball number and has my initials on it!

A debate (I'm being kind) begins; this was not the ball (brand, model or markings) that this opponent had been using on any previous hole, my ball was an expensive brand. He says that it was unplayable where he found it (no ball retriever was required for him to pocket my ball). He relented and on the spot gave me back my ball. Yes he broke other rules at that point but we need not go there.

The words and attitude he used for his defense of his actions are, minimally, proof of his ignorance of the rules or could have been proof of willful cheating. He found a ball, my ball, and says nothing but does put it in his pocket. I understand that we have all teed off on the next hole after the "incident," but there is now information not previously known.

What should have happened to this player and/or my penalty and how should WE have proceeded at this point in the match?

Many thanks,
Lou from Ottawa

Dear Lou,

There is no penalty to you for finding relief under the water hazard rule. Since there is no other place the ball might be, you are entitled to assume that your ball is in the hazard.

If it can be established that your opponent found and pocketed your ball before you dropped and hit another ball, he loses the hole if you file a claim. Ordinarily you may not file a claim once anyone has teed off on the next hole. However, since you were unaware your opponent had found your ball until play of the following hole had already begun, you may file a claim at the time you make the discovery [Rule 2-5].

Your opponent incurs no penalty if he found the ball subsequent to your drop and hit – picking up a lost ball and keeping it is not against the Rules. Loss of hole will be automatic if the Committee discovers the ball was found prior to your drop; they might even take it a step further and disqualify your opponent for a serious breach of etiquette. I would.

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