Rules Guy: Is it legal to smooth deer tracks in the bunker?

A rare instance where hoofing it on the course is a problem.

A rare instance where hoofing it on the course is a problem.

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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.

The deer around my home course often run through the bunkers. Charming… but can I smooth the tracks if my ball comes to rest in a hoofprint? —Shay Ballard, Prescott, Ariz.

While deer tracks may, er, tick us off, you can’t smooth them, because smoothing isn’t allowed if it improves the conditions affecting the stroke — aka CATS.

Even if Model Local Rule F-13, which treats damage by animal hoofs (or paws) as ground under repair, is in effect, you still wouldn’t be allowed to smooth but would get a free drop instead. We will discuss deer droppings another time.

Rules Guy: Can you take free relief from an animal hole in a bunker?
By: Rules Guy

For more animal-related guidance from our guru, read on …

As my friend and I were approaching his tee shot in the fairway, a fox trotted out of the woods, sniffed the ball and then urinated on it. Is my friend allowed to clean or replace the ball? —David Cole, via email

Well, presumably unlike the now “marked” golf ball, the rules here are cut and dried.

In equity, the player is entitled to the lie present when the ball came to rest. Thus, your friend may lift and clean the ball. If there is, um, “casual water” present, the player can take relief under Rule 25-1, which also allows the ball to be cleaned (and disinfected).

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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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