When animals obstruct your golf shot

Animals and golf shots
Leigh Anderson sent this photo to us via Twitter. Luckily, this coyote passed and didn't affect her shot. But there are rules that allow for free drops if you find yourself uncomfortable when an animal is too close to your ball.
By Mark Aumann

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 | 9:15 a.m.

Much of the buzz over the weekend at the Accenture Match Play Championships was about Sergio Garcia’s unusual “good-good” concession in his match with Rickie Fowler.

That was all set up by an even more unusual situation on the previous hole, when Garcia’s ball wound up next to some angry bees, which created a bit of a delay while Garcia tried to find a place where he could get a free drop without being bugged. It was that delay that Garcia cited when giving the somewhat long putt to a confused Fowler.

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Watch the situation unfold here:



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According to Bryan Jones, co-vice chairman of the PGA Rules Committee, it’s a situation that is definitely up to each individual player. What may not seem like a dangerous situation to one may be quite the opposite to another.

“It may only be a few bees, but if the player might be allergic to them, you can certainly see how that could be dangerous,” Jones said.

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Jones said the Rule Book doesn’t have a specific section to cover dangerous situations, but there is precedent.

“In the Decisions Book, there’s a famous decision — under Rule No. 1, it’s Decision 1-4/10 — that talks about dangerous situations and what the player is allowed to do,” Jones said. "Without getting closer to the hole, they can drop within a club length of the spot where it is not dangerous.”

The decision not only includes bees and rattlesnakes, but covers a wide variety of dangerous situations, like when your ball winds up on an alligator’s head, as happened here a few months ago.

On Friday, Garcia’s ball was in the rough near the green, so he was allowed to drop in a nearby section of rough no closer to the hole.

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Had he been in the bunker, he'd have to drop in another section of the bunker — or a nearby bunker. Had he not been able to resolve the issue while remaining in a hazard, he would have had the option to drop outside of the hazard, but would have incurred a one-stroke penalty.

In Garcia’s case, he took a second drop because the bees were still near enough to his ball to cause him consternation.

“Dangerous situations are not necessarily animal or insect, but when you think of alligators and snakes and fire ants, and Sergio’s case, bees, those are covered in the decision,” Jones said. “But cactus needles or poison ivy — they’re very challenging things — but that’s not what this dangerous situation concept is really about.”