Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bubba Watson and the Ant Cast

            On the 5th hole of the final round of the PGA Championship, Bubba Watson called over the Rules Official requesting relief from an ant-hill or cast.  Bubba was denied relief and there was a very good discussion.
            Under Rule 25-1, the player is entitled to relief for interference by an abnormal ground condition.  Abnormal ground conditions include burrowing animal holes.  Bubba argued that the ants clearly did burrow for habitation and that they are clearly animals.  However, the definition of burrowing animal specifically excludes worms, insects or the like.  Therefore, even though ants do create holes for habitation, they are not burrowing animals as defined by the Rules of Golf.
            I thought the best part of the whole scene was that the official did not hesitate one bit to get on the radio for a second opinion.  He knew the Rule and that Bubba was not entitled to relief, in fact the situation was most likely discussed in the pre-championship Rules meetings, but the player was in doubt and the official offered him a second opinion.

            The only part of the situation that could need clarification is the cast being a loose impediment.  Ant casts are generally consisting of loose soil, which is not a loose impediment except on the putting green.  However, the definition of loose impediments states that “worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them” are in fact loose impediments and may be moved by a player provided he does not move his ball. See also Decision 23/5 which specifically states that an ant hill is a loose impediment.