Gopher It!

Reading the 2012 Royal Canadian Golf Association rule book as part of my preseason ritual, I came across rule 25-1, Immovable Obstructions and Abnormal Ground Conditions. This particular rule is unique, however it did directly impact a tournament I won back in 2009.

In Canada, the military has an inter-base golf competition to decide a Regional Champion.  Additionally, the top five male and top two female low gross players of this 54 hole tournament are selected to represent the region at a National Championship.  It is something I look forward too as part of my golfing season.  Now back to my story.

caddyshackgopherAfter the first day, the competition was pretty close with only six strokes separating the top 12 players.  On the second day, I was playing in the last group coming up to the narrow par 5, 16th hole.  This hole was difficult because the green was elevated about 10 feet above the fairway and had a steep front face.  Each player elected to lay up and had about 100 yards into the green on their third shot.

Last player in our group hit a high 52 degree wedge that hit directly in the middle of the face of the green…..AND DISAPPEARED!  Yes, disappeared completely.  Each of the players looked at each other in complete confusion.  Not sure what happened, the player decided to play a provisional because no one saw it bounce and to save time.

As we approached the green we all walked to the exact same spot without discussion.  At the spot was four gopher holes!  We look around the green and could not find the players ball.  I took my sand wedge and stuck in each hole and pulled out seven balls….no I am not  kidding!  Unfortunately, none were his.  We pulled out the rule book (because I always carry one) and read rule 25-1.

We all agreed that the ball went into a gopher hole and could not find it.  Because he hit a provisional, we suggested he play a ball with no penalty as directed by the rule and play his provisional ball; then we would ask the rules official after the round.  He ended up with a par with the drop ball and a 7 with the provisional ball.  Unfortunately, the rules official did not really know the rules of golf, so we as a group decided to allow the drop ball as the one to count towards his score.

After much debate, most players (even those close in the hunt to make the top 5 for the regional team) agreed with our decision and we moved on.  As it turned out, the player did not make the team, but was the first alternate.

To this day, I am confident we made the correct decision.  Here is why:

  • All three players walked to the same spot on the face of the green;
  • There were four gopher holes within three feet of where we marked the ball;
  • We were only 100 yards away so tracking the ball was extremely easy;
  • I collected 7 balls from the gopher holes, so balls have landed there before; and
  • After discussion in the club house, we all agreed that it was correct interpretation of the rule.

So knowing the rules is very important to golf.  It is difficult to interpret them some times, but it can have an impact on any match.  This is my story, how would you have called it?

I am a grateful golfer!  See you on the links!

7 thoughts on “Gopher It!

  1. Pingback: Arguing About Golf Rules | The Grateful Golfer

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  4. I remember Sergio getting a drop for abnormal ground conditions during the 2010 (I think) Fed Ex Cup, the drop allowed him a couple paces back from a tree he was up against and he hit a pretty amazing cut to the green, he holed his putt to force a playoff with Matt Kuchar (Kuchar ultimately won). It was the first time I had ever seen the rule applied.


    • Aaron,

      I remember that! The rules can help or hurt you depending on your situation. Your point made me think of Sergio up the tree playing the ball where it lies this year. It is crazy how things unfold. Thanks for the comment.



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