Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ask Linda #1204-Ball lost in tree in GUR

On the weekend, the player whose card I was marking hit his ball towards a pine tree that was in GUR. When we got to the tree we could not find the ball anywhere. So after a few minutes the player said: “Don't worry I will play another one,” and started walking back towards the tee, so I assumed he was going to play another from the tee.

However when I got to the top of the hill and looked back, he had dropped next to the tree outside the GUR.

When I questioned why he dropped there he explained he thought there was enough evidence to suggest his ball was lost in the tree. I explained that I did not think there was enough evidence and he should have played another from the tee. The competition was Stableford and he wiped the hole. He was not happy about it, but got on with it and all was fine.

I have since read a USGA ruling that allowed a drop in a similar situation. I find it hard to be totally sure a ball is lost in a tree when I have found plenty of balls I have hit in trees in places totally different to where I was looking. To me, hitting a ball towards a tree and not seeing it drop is not enough evidence to say it is in the tree. I am talking about a pine tree, not a gorse bush or something dense.

Did I do the right thing as marker?

Thanks again,
Lou from Adelaide, Australia

Dear Lou,

Yes, Lou. You were correct.

Unless someone witnessed the ball lodge in the tree, there can be no certainty that it is there. Decision 27/15 requires that a player identify a ball in a tree as his. Even if he is able to see a ball in the tree, he must proceed under Rule 27-1 (stroke and distance) if he is unable to identify it.

If there is knowledge or virtual certainty that the ball is in the tree in GUR, the player is entitled to relief under Rule 25-1c [Decision 25/10]. However, there was neither knowledge nor virtual certainty in the scenario you describe. "Enough evidence" does not constitute virtual certainty.

If there was a USGA ruling permitting a drop, I assume it was because someone witnessed the ball lodging in the tree or the ball was seen and identified.

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