Thursday, June 2, 2016

Ask Linda #1317-Player kicks another’s ball out of sight

Hi Linda,

I was playing in a tournament over the weekend. We were on the tee of a short par 4 and another group in the same competition was ahead of us on the green. It was 265 yards to the green centre and I didn’t expect my tee shot to reach the green, as I was hitting a 3-wood which would normally be 220-230 yards if struck well. However there was a reasonable wind behind and I thought it might get close to the green. I didn’t wait for the green to clear and hit a great shot which landed short of the green on a direct line for the green centre and I didn’t see it after that.

On reaching the green I couldn’t find my ball. As it was on a very straight line we concluded that it must have gone over the green and into the lateral water hazard behind it. I took a penalty stroke and ended up with a bogey 5.

Later on in the clubhouse I was told what actually happened. My ball bounced well short of the green and rolled onto it and was stopped by the flagstick that was laying on the green as the other group was putting. One of the players in that group wasn’t happy that I’d not waited for the green to clear and in a fit of rage kicked my ball off to the left of the green into the fairly deep rough.

Other than a point of ethics, I’m not sure the player in front broke any rules that would have incurred a penalty. What do you think?

Lou from Tampa, Florida

Dear Lou,

This is a matter for the Committee to decide. The Committee has the option to disqualify a player for a serious breach of Rule 1-2 [please read Rule 1-2, the penalty statement, and Note 1]. I might be inclined to disqualify the player who kicked your ball. Not only did he deliberately move a fellow competitor’s ball in play, he kicked it into an area where you would be unlikely to search (since you knew the ball had taken a straight path). He did not tell you where to find the ball, deliberately withholding information that led to your scoring much higher on the hole. His action was malicious and detrimental to you. My inclination to disqualify the player is, of course, my opinion – others might let the player off with a two-stroke penalty [Decision 1-4/4].

Now let’s take a look at your breach of etiquette. Players are cautioned in Section I of the rulebook to refrain from hitting until they are certain that the players in front are out of range. You stated that you didn’t expect your ball to reach the green, but that there was a good wind behind you that might help carry your ball close to the green. If there is the remotest possibility that your ball will reach the players in front of you, you should wait until they have moved on. While it would seem unlikely that you would injure a player from that distance (your ball would be rolling by the time it reached the green), there is a good chance the arrival of a ball on the green would distract the players who were trying to putt.

This situation could easily be handled without the intervention of the Committee. The player who was upset should have warned you against hitting into the group in front; you should have responded with a profuse apology and a promise to be much more careful in the future. Better yet, you could have gone forward immediately and apologized, at which point the angry kicker might have told you where he kicked the ball and where you should replace it.

A little common sense and some basic manners might have defused the whole situation.

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