I guess that there are many readers that have had their golf ball in play moved by a bird or an animal, e.g. crow, gull, dog, fox, or even a kangaroo. It has happened to me twice and it happened to Queensland professional golfer Sam Eaves last Thursday, at the Australian PGA Championship.
You can watch the crow (or was it a raven?) pick the ball off the fairway at this link. So, what is the ruling in this situation? The first point is that the ball does not have to be recovered. If it is known or virtually certain that a player’s ball at rest has been moved by an outside agency, no penalty is incurred and either the original ball or another ball must be replaced at the spot that the ball was moved from, Rule 18-1. I have used the word ’replaced’, as does the Rule, but this often causes confusion with players. A ball can only be replaced if the exact spot and lie are known. Obviously, when an outside agency has moved a ball it is highly unlikely that the player will know the exact spot or lie, as they could have been some distance away when it was moved. In a majority of cases, the exact spot and/or lie will not be determinable, which means that a ball has to be dropped as near as possible to the estimated place where it lay, Rule 20-3c, except on a putting green where the ball must be placed as near as possible to where it lay.
(This paragraph was edited on December 17th 2014) It is different if the ball is still in motion when it is deflected or moved by an outside agency. Rule 19-1 states that if a player makes a stroke from off the putting green and their ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies. However, if the outside agency (e.g. a dog) picks-up a moving ball and runs off with it, the player should drop a ball (or place it if it was from the putting green), without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where the original ball was when the dog picked it up. The ruling is different if a ball is putted from on the putting green and is accidentally deflected or stopped by any moving or animate outside agency. In this case the stroke is cancelled, the ball must be replaced where the putt was taken from and replayed.
So, going back to the Sam Eaves video clip, he was permitted to drop another ball as near as possible to the place on the fairway where the crow had picked it up, without penalty.
Fox Sports (US)
In 2013, Fox Sports signed a 12-year, $1 billion deal for televising USGA events, replacing NBC Sports, which has broadcast every US Open since 1995. In securing this contract, Fox promised to bring fresh thinking and innovative ideas to deliver championship golf. In my opinion, they have made a great start with the announcement that their broadcasting team includes a full-time rules expert, David Fay, who was executive director of the United States Golf Association (USGA) for 21 years until he retired in 2010. Fay is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Rules of Golf and has previously made occasional guest appearances on US TV with informed commentary and analysis on Rules situations. This has to be a welcome move; there have been too many instances when TV commentators have confused the viewing public with misleading and sometimes incorrect interpretations of the Rules of Golf.
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