Rules Guy: What happens if your ball is deflected off an abandoned push cart?

June 26, 2019

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

During a match I was playing with a friend in Portugal, I teed off on a dogleg-left hole. As my draw disappeared around the bend, we suddenly heard a loud clank! As we approached the spot, we saw two abandoned pull carts at the fairway’s edge. My ball had apparently struck one and deflected backward into heavy rough instead of continuing on its path to the fairway. I argued that the carts should be considered an outside agency, and at worst I should get a drop from there, if not from where my ball likely would have gone. My friend said, “No way — play it as it lies,” which I reluctantly did.

Never mind the Rules, Doc — aren’t you curious about these ghost golfers? Where in the world did they disappear to? Off for a mid-round siesta? Some canoodling in the woods? Abducted by aliens? Inquiring minds want to know! Anyway, the new-for-2019 Rules call those pesky carts an “outside influence” (as would be the adorable, furry ball thief, above) rather than an “outside agency,” but the answer is the same.

It’s an accidental deflection, and you indeed should have played the ball as it lay — and later circled back to solve “The Case of the Abandoned Carts.”

Got a rules question? Of course you do! Whatever it may be, send yours to rulesguy@golf.com and the question may be answered in an upcoming issue of GOLF. Until then, play by the Rules!