Rules Corner: What do I do if my golf ball gets stuck in a tree?

April 4, 2020

When playing golf, your ball can wind up in some crazy places. Sometimes it even comes to rest up in a tree.

That’s just what happened to Nick Faldo at the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. His approach shot on the par 5 sailed long and ended up stuck in the branches of a tree. Faldo knew the ball ended up in the tree, but he couldn’t find or identify it from the ground.

Without being able to identify his ball, Faldo would’ve had to replay the ball from its previous spot under the stroke-and-distance provision. So Faldo jumped into the tree to try to shake the ball out to identify it.

This decision is covered under Rule 19.2. It states, “the player may take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 19.2a even if the original ball has not been found and identified. But to take back-on-the-line relief under Rule 19.2b or lateral relief under Rule 19.2c, the player must know the spot of the original ball.”

If Faldo were able to find and identify his ball, he would’ve been able to unlock two additional options of relief: lateral and back-on-the-line. But because he was not able to identify his ball, he was forced to take the much more penal stroke-and-distance relief option.

If you ever hit your ball into a tree, do your best to get it out and identify it. Otherwise you will be making a lonely walk back up the fairway.

What are your options if you hit into the penalty area?
How do I proceed when searching for a lost ball?
What is opposite-side relief? Here’s why it matters.
Do you know the difference between an integral object and an immovable obstruction?

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