Monday, March 7, 2016

Ask Linda #1263-Player responsible for moving ball

The other day I was playing and my ball was fairly close to the base of a tree. I had a shot to punch the ball out but when I removed a leaf that was about 4-5 inches behind my ball the ball moved about 1/4 turn. I have moved loose impediments more times than I care to remember and in doing so caused my ball to move and I know what the penalty is. However, this is the first time that I can honestly say I do not think my moving that leaf caused the ball to move. I honestly believe that my ball was sitting precariously on a small irregularity near the tree; I think it was merely coincidence that the ball moved as I bent over to pick up the leaf. Again, the leaf was well behind the ball and no part of the leaf or anything else that I touched was in contact with the ball. Also, I had not yet even picked my club much less addressed the ball.  Question…can you provide some guidance as to what must occur to assume that a golfer’s actions resulted in moving the ball and therefore incurring a penalty?

Lou from Texas

Dear Lou,

All of the evidence must be considered in determining who or what is responsible for a ball moving. Sometimes the answer is obvious: the player kicks the ball or drops a club on it; an animal or spectator moves it. Other times the reason is not easily discerned.

There is a new Decision this year that gives excellent guidance on how to decide whether the player moved his ball. I would strongly suggest everyone read Decision 18-2/0.5.

Based on your narrative, I would be inclined to rule that you were responsible for moving the ball. Since the ball did not move in all the time it took you to reach it and contemplate your shot, there’s a good chance you disturbed something that caused it to move when you picked up a leaf four or five inches behind it.

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