July - 2012

Now YOU have to make a decision using the RULES of GOLF. Remember the commercial where the guy keeps saying "I can do that! I can do that!" and then its "How am I going to do that???"

Working your way through the Rules to be sure you have the right answer on the simplest of things can sometimes take much more digging than it might at first seem.

O.K. A bee lands on your ball and it's your turn to hit. Your first instinct is to pick it up and brush it away. But Wait! I remember I really shouldn't move my ball unless it's marked on the green. Can I brush it away? What if the ball moves? What do you do and what is the ruling?

Rule 23 in the Decisions Book covers Loose Impediments.

As you begin to look through this situation and find an answer, you fortunately discover a Decision covers the exact situation. Lets start there.

Removal of Insect on Ball

Q.A live insect is stationary or crawling on a player's ball which is lying through the green. May the player remove the insect with his fingers or blow the insect off the ball?

A.Yes, in both cases, under Rule 23-1. A live insect is not considered to be adhering to the ball and therefore is a loose impediment - see Definition of "Loose Impediments."

Now Decision 23-1/5 mentions two things: Rule 23-1 and the Definition of "Loose Impediments" Lets see what they say.

23-1. Relief
Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty.

If the ball lies anywhere other than on the putting green and the removal of a loose impediment by the player causes the ball to move, Rule 18-2a applies.

On the putting green, if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of the player removing a loose impediment, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the removal of the loose impediment. Otherwise, if the player causes the ball to move, he incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a.

When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.

Note: If the ball lies in a hazard, the player must not touch or move any loose impediment lying in or touching the same hazard - see Rule 13-4c.

Penalty For Breach Of Rule:

Match play - Loss of hole; Stroke play - Two strokes.

(Searching for ball in hazard - see Rule 12-1)

(Touching line of putt - see Rule 16-1a)

In this situation in removing the bee, we decided brushing away the bee didn't cause the ball to move.

Next, because you didn't cause the ball to move-right? Rule 23 is applied to this Decision. If you DID cause the ball to move, then we start down a different road to see which penalty must be added. (That would be where RULE 18-2a Ball at Rest Moved would come in)


18-2. By Player, Partner, Caddie Or Equipment
a. General
Except as permitted by the Rules, when a player's ball is in play, if

    (i) the player, his partner or either of their caddies:

  • lifts or moves the ball,

  • touches it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing the ball), or

  • causes the ball to move, or

  • (ii) the equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move,

the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.

If the ball is moved, it must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

Under the Rules there is no penalty if a player accidentally causes his ball to move in the following circumstances:

  • In searching for a ball covered by sand, in the replacement of loose impediments moved in a hazard while finding or identifying a ball, in probing for a ball lying in water in a water hazard or in searching for a ball in an obstruction or an abnormal ground condition - Rule 12-1

  • In repairing a hole plug or ball mark - Rule 16-1c

  • In measuring - Rule 18-6

  • In lifting a ball under a Rule - Rule 20-1

  • In placing or replacing a ball under a Rule - Rule 20-3a

  • In removing a loose impediment on the putting green - Rule 23-1

  • In removing movable obstructions - Rule 24-1

    b. Ball Moving After Address
    If a player's ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and
    incurs a penalty of one stroke.

    The ball must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

    Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, Rule 18-2b does not apply.

    Now we look at the Definition of "Loose Impediments"

    "Loose impediments'' are natural objects, including:

  • stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like,
  • dung, and
  • worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them,
    provided they are not:
  • fixed or growing,
  • solidly embedded, or
  • adhering to the ball. Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.

    Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.

    Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

    So, where are we?

    A bee landed on your ball, you removed it by blowing on it and you didn't cause the ball to move. So, the Decision 23-1/5 says that you can remove the bee because under the Definitions Section, the bee is considered a Loose Impediment. AND, you didn't pick your ball up and brush away the bee.

    So, No Penalty… That was simple.

    Derek Duesler