OMAHA, Neb. – During the 2013 U.S. Senior Open, two incidents occurred where a player’s ball at rest was moved by another player’s ball in motion. In both cases the ball in motion was played as it lies (Rule 19-5a, Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped; By Another Ball At Rest). In the cases of the balls at rest that were moved, they were both replaced (Rule 18-5, Ball at Rest Moved; By Another Ball).
In the first round, Mark O’Meara’s tee shot to the par-3 16th green struck Mark Calcavecchia’s ball, which was already on the green and at rest. The collision moved Calcavecchia’s ball more than 20 feet. Rule 18-5 (Ball at Rest Moved; By Another Ball) says, “If a ball in play and at rest is moved by another ball in motion after a stroke, the moved ball must be replaced.” If you are wondering if there was a penalty, the answer is no. In order for there to be a penalty, the Rule would have to specifically say there was one, and the language in Rule 18-5 does not include any reference to a penalty.
However, in replacing his ball, Calcavecchia had a little problem. Since he was more than 200 yards from his ball when it was moved and because the collision with O’Meara’s ball had not left any noticeable mark on the putting green, he didn’t know exactly where to replace his ball. Rule 20-3c (Placing and Replacing; Spot Not Determinable) provided the help Calcavecchia needed. It says, “If it is impossible to determine the spot where the ball is to be … replaced…on the putting green, the ball must be placed as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard.” With the help of spectators, Calcavecchia estimated where his ball had been when O’Meara’s tee shot moved it, and he placed the ball on that spot.
In the third round, Lance Ten Broeck’s tee shot on the par-4 15th hole struck and moved the ball of Jay Haas already in the fairway. Haas had the same problem Calcavecchia had in the first round, he didn’t know exactly where he was supposed to replace his ball. Again, Rule 20-3c (Placing and Replacing; Spot Not Determinable) provided the procedure that Haas should follow to replace his ball. “If it is impossible to determine the spot where the ball is to be … replaced…through the green, the ball must be dropped as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard or on a putting green.” Haas estimated where his ball had been when Ten Broeck’s tee shot hit and moved it and dropped the ball as near as possible to that spot, not nearer the hole.
Why did Calcavecchia get to place his ball and Haas have to drop his? The answers are different because of where the balls were on the course when they were moved. When a ball is dropped, it usually comes to rest somewhere other than where it first strikes the course. On putting greens, where there is little or no difference between the lie of a ball in one position or another, the Rule-makers want the ball to be located as near as possible to where it was estimated to have been when it was moved. Therefore on putting greens, balls are placed. Everywhere else on the course, when a ball at rest is moved and the original position of the ball is not known, another thing that is also not known is what the lie of that ball was like before it was moved. Therefore, the Rules require such a ball to be replaced by estimating the spot where it had been and then dropping it so the resulting lie of the ball will be determined by chance, just as it is when it comes to rest after a stroke.
For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at http://www.usga.org or watch the Rules of Golf Explained videos at http://www.usga-rules.com/.
Written by David Staebler, director of Rules Education for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.