Written by Joyce McCann, 18ers Rules Chair.

First published in 2017. Updated to conform to the 2019 Rules. 

News flash – from the viewpoint of the Rules, it’s not just us playing golf, it’s also our “equipment”. Equipment includes anything we, our fellow competitors in stroke play or opponents in match play use, wear, hold, or carry (e.g., a golf cart, bag, club, or balls). 

There have been two recent incidents that both involved equipment behaving badly.  

It is important to note that both of these incidents occurred during stroke play – rulings might be different had they occurred during match play. One incident occurred during a “friendly” game of skins on the 15th hole on Dollar when a player’s fairway metal shot took an unexpected turn to the right and ended up lodged in the seat of the stationary golf cart (equipment) of a fellow competitor, who narrowly avoided a direct hit by diving out of her cart at the last minute. The second incident occurred during the final round of the 18er stroke play Championship tournament. In that incident, a player hit her tee shot on #10 and it landed on the green, but was deflected off the green by a club (equipment) a fellow competitor in the group ahead of her had forgotten to pick up. 

Both the cart and the club were not just equipment, they were also outside influences because they didn’t belong to the player, and they were also movable obstructions for obvious reasons. Yet, different Rules apply in these two situations. So, what is the key difference between the two incidents? 

In the golf cart incident, a ball came to rest on the cart. In the golf club incident, a ball was deflected by the club. The applicable Rule when a ball comes to rest on a movable obstruction is Rule 15.2 (Movable Obstructions). The Rule applied when a ball is deflected by an outside influence is Rule 11.1 (Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person or Outside Influence). In both cases, there is free relief. 

In the golf cart incident, since the golf cart is a movable obstruction, the solution is simply to move the cart, and then drop a ball within one club length of the estimated spot right under where the ball came to rest in the cart (Rule 15.2). [As an aside for Rules Nuts, if the cart had been moving when the incident occurred, the cart was a moving outside agency, and the governing Rule would be 11.1b (Exception 1). Free relief would be taken by dropping a ball in a relief area measured from the estimated point right under where the ball first came to rest on the moving cart.] 

In the forgotten club incident, the player must play her ball from where it came to rest after it was deflected  (Rule 11.1b). Thus, there is no free relief from where the forgotten club lay on the green, and the player who hit her ball on the green must now play it from the rough. Doesn’t seem fair! Thus, two different Rules must be invoked to deal with these two incidents, both of which involve the equipment of a fellow competitor interfering with a ball struck by a player.