|Aug 2015: Jordan Spieth removes bunker stones at Chambers Bay|
Stones are, by definition, loose impediments and, when a player’s ball is in a hazard, a stone lying in or touching the hazard may not be touched or moved (Rule 13-4). However, stones in bunkers may represent a danger to players (a player could be injured by a stone struck by the player’s club in an attempt to play the ball) and they may interfere with the proper playing of the game.Jordan was entitled to remove the stone lying beneath his ball before making his stroke from the bunker. Because the Local Rule deemed stones in bunkers to be movable obstructions, Rule 24-1b applied. This permits a player to lift their ball when it lies on a movable obstruction and remove the obstruction. Spieth’s ball then had to be dropped in the bunker, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where his ball lay on the stone, but not nearer the hole.
When permission to lift a stone in a bunker is warranted, the following Local Rule is recommended:
“Stones in bunkers are movable obstructions (Rule 24-1 applies).”
Bubba Watson and the Ant Hill
As long-time readers of this blog will know, many tournament players (and their caddies) are not as aware of the Rules of Golf as they should be. Bubba Watson spent a few minutes unsuccessfully trying to persuade a Rules Official that he was entitled to relief from one of the many ant hills on the Whistling Straits course, because, a) his ball lay in a "dangerous situation", and b) ants are burrowing animals. Quite rightly the Rules Official denied Bubba relief because, a) most species of ants are clearly not dangerous, although, as the Rules Official correctly pointed out, some species, such as fire-ants, can be, but they are not present on the Whistling Straits course, and b) the definition of burrowing animals specifically excludes insects;
A "burrowing animal" is an animal (other than a worm, insect or the like) that makes a hole for habitation or shelter, such as a rabbit, mole, groundhog, gopher or salamander.Decision 23/5 shows that ant hills may be treated as a loose impediment;
Q. Is an ant hill a loose impediment?Note that if that if ants on a course are considered to be dangerous, a Committee would be justified in stating that their ant hills may be treated as ground under repair, but this would be unusual (Decision 33-8/22).
A. Yes. A player is entitled to remove an ant hill under Rule 23-1.
Most of the videos of this Rules incident have been taken down, but at the time of writing this link was still live. Scroll down below the Vine clip, to the video with the statement, “Just watch and learn as professor Bubba Watson teaches everyone about animals”. The video is about 5 minutes long and could take a little while to load, but I think that Rules enthusiasts will be interested in the exchange and will probably not be surprised that Watson, his caddie and the TV commentators all got the ruling wrong. Even the Rules Official (Graeme Scott from the Australian Tour), who presumably had been briefed on rulings that could arise on the course, asked for a second opinion.
As he prepared to address his ball amongst the ants Bubba joked, "Ow, It Bit Me", presumably sarcastically, in the direction of the Rules Official. As it happened he could have (should have?) saved himself, the official and his fellow competitor, Hunter Mahon, over five minutes wasted time, as he went on to birdie the hole from his 'antsy' lie.
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