Rules Corner

Up A Tree

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Sahalee Country Club is best known for its large red cedar and fir trees which line the fairways and on some holes, are in the fairway.  Don’t be surprised if a few shots this week hit these trees. 

But what happens if people see a ball go into a tree and get stuck in a branch?

When the player finds a ball in a tree branch he may not be able to identify it as his.  If he moves that ball and it is subsequently discovered to be his ball, he will be penalized one stroke for moving his ball in play and will be required to replace it.  If the player cannot replace the ball, he will then be penalized two strokes. All of this is in accordance with Rule 18 (Ball At Rest Moved). 

A player could avoid the penalty under Rule 18 by declaring his intention to proceed under Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable) prior to taking action to move the ball. The Decisions On the Rules of Golf specifically addresses this situation with Decision 18-2a/27.

The player may find that the tree wins and he never finds his golf ball.  Ultimately, if the player cannot identify a ball as his within five minutes of searching for it (see the definition of Ball Lost), he will incur the penalty under Rule 27 (Lost Ball) which requires him to play a stroke from the spot where his previous stroke was played, better known as the “stroke-and-distance” penalty.  Here is a link to a video of Tommy Nakajima’s predicament during the 1987 U.S. Open Championship where the tree never gave up his golf ball. – Wendy Uzelac

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