What’s Your Score When Someone “Steals” Your Golf Ball?

I was playing in a local league tournament the other day. Not a major tournament, just a simple inter-league competition. Not much money on the line. We were playing as teams of four against eight other teams of four. The game was one ball net, one ball gross, which means that for each hole the team score is a combination of the best gross score and the best net score. So what happened to me and my golf ball wasn’t all that critical. There were three other players scores we could use — or maybe only two player’s scores we could use. You’ll understand my dilemma when I explain what happened. It caused me to wonder about rules and regulations and though I am pretty sure about the rules, I welcome your insight.

Here’s what happened:

We were on the 14th hole, a par 4. I was playing a NIKE Crush, currently my favorite golf ball. I had marked it with my initials in red so as to distinguish the ball from those of my three companions. At the beginning of the round one was playing a Callaway, another a Pinnacle and the third player was playing a Titleist. With four different balls in play there was little chance of confusion, or so I thought.

On the 14th tee, I hit my drive just right of the fairway into a grove of trees. I didn’t see exactly where it landed, but I figured it would be easy to get out from there. One of the other golfers, let’s call her Sally, hit her drive into the same rough to the right of the fairway. After the others had hit, we all moved up to our balls. Sally claimed she had found her ball and prepared to hit. I was still searching for mine. Just before she hit. I wondered if Sally was actually at my ball. “Are you sure that’s your ball?” I asked.

“Oh yes, I am playing a Nike.” (This was news to me. She must have changed balls a few holes back.) “I know it’s mine because it has a red mark on it.”

Now I was a little concerned. “But my ball is a Nike and it has a red mark on it, too.”

Sally looked down at the ball at her feet and assured me. “No, this is my ball.” At which point she swung her club and hit the ball about 75 yards out of the rough and onto the fairway.

I continued looking for my ball but without any luck. With the group behind us finishing up on the green at 13, I had little choice but to trot back to the tee box and hit another ball. This would be my third stroke. It was a good one, landing 175 yards down the center of the fairway.

By the time I got up to my ball Sally was all apologies. She had discovered that, indeed, she had hit the wrong ball. The one in the rough—the Nike with the red mark—the one she hit 75 yards further down the fairway, had my initials on it. Her ball had been lost.

I wasn’t angry. Honestly. Just a little annoyed and confused. It was all a stupid coincidence that both of us had marked NIKE balls with red marks and both of us had hit into the same rough. The situation might have been reversed after all. We both finished the hole and the team took the two other members’ scores as our gross and net so the result did not compromise our score, but I was still left with some questions.

  1. When someone loses their ball and mistakenly hits yours instead, so you are effectively left without a ball to play… what is the result on your score?
  2. Is it allowed for a player to switch golf balls in the middle of the round, and if so are they required to let the other players know?
  3. What happens to the player who hits the wrong ball?

I’ve done a little research and found what I think are some answers to these questions. You can click here to see what I discovered.

But I would really like to know what you think? Ever been in this type of situation?

  6 comments for “What’s Your Score When Someone “Steals” Your Golf Ball?

  1. Random guest
    April 15, 2013 at 5:26 am

    Hi! This story made me thinking about the reasons the balls really get lost. Recently I was on vacation at some resort where huge golf fields are all over the place. So I was jogging down the paths around the field and quite often I came across some balls either stuck between yucca leaves or just lying near the path. So I considered them to be lost and picked them up for my collection of “found golf balls”. Once I even picked up a ball that was lying within 8-10 yards off a hole. I spotted it when I was running by this part of the field. I looked around and saw no one. So I thought that the ball had been lost and picked it up. In a couple of days I realised that players sometimes hit at a very big distance and it might take them some time to make it to the spot where the ball had landed. Also I figured that even if a ball is lying off the playing area it does not necessarily mean that it’s out of the game… So once I’d figured that out I felt ashamed… But I had had a great collection of balls I gave out as presents to my friends 🙂

    • Pat Mullaly
      April 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Don’t worry… You’ve learned from your mistake, and I’m sure you won’t pick up a “lost” ball again. Good thing the guys or gals playing didn’t see you do the deed. They’d be chasing you down, clubs waving in the air!!! 🙂

  2. DolphW
    November 7, 2010 at 8:51 am

    This has happened to me several times while playing with friends in a friendly round. The guilty golfer added two strokes to his score. The guy who had to hit again took two strokes off his gross. But it wasn’t a tournament, so it didn’t really matter. I think you would have to talk to the course pro to figure out the right answer.

  3. Janet72
    November 6, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Clearly the woman, Sally, has a 2 stroke penalty for hitting the wrong ball. She should put on her glasses next time. Unsure what should happen about your score though.

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