Many of us have seen the damage caused by sandhill cranes on the golf course. Nonetheless, how is it treated under the Rules of Golf?
As usual, the best place to begin to look is in the definitions section of the Rule book. In this case, the very first definition, Abnormal Ground Conditions yields the answer.
The definition of an abnormal ground condition includes “any casual water, ground under repair or hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.”
In searching for food, these cranes use their long beak to probe for food such as mole crickets and beetle grubs. The resulting damage can create a real mess on the golf course. This damage is classified as a hole made by a bird and thus is an abnormal ground condition.
Under the Abnormal Ground Conditions Rule (Rule 25-1), interference from an abnormal ground condition occurs when a ball lies in or touches the condition or when the condition interferes with the player’s stance or area of intended swing. On the putting green, interference also exists if the condition intervenes on the line of putt.
Generally, as long as the player’s ball does not lie in a water hazard, the player is entitled to relief if interference exists.
If the ball lies through the green, the player may lift and drop the ball without penalty, no nearer the hole, within one club-length of the nearest point of relief .
In a bunker, the player may lift the ball and drop it in the bunker without penalty within one club-length of the nearest point of relief; no nearer the hole but staying in the bunker.
A second option also exists for interference in a bunker. The player may, under penalty of one stroke, lift the ball and drop it outside the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit as to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped. I call this the “lousy bunker player option.” If you’re no good at getting out of bunkers, think about this one. Just remember, you must have interference from an abnormal ground condition in a bunker before you can employ this option. It is not the same as an unplayable lie.
If the ball lies on the putting green and interference exists, the player may lift the ball and place it at the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole. You may be placing the ball off the putting green. However, you’ll still be placing it.
Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.