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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?