Consider this scenario: You play your drive, but your golf ball hits a tree on the side of the fairway, and it didn’t come down: your golf ball is still up there, caught in the branches. How do you proceed? If you’re like most golfers, you’ll either curse your luck or laugh at the situation. But what is the error? What are your options under the rules of golf?
There are three options to continue playing after your golf ball gets stuck in a tree. You may play the ball as it lies, proceed under the unplayable ball rule, or proceed under a lost ball rule. We are going to tell you everything you need to know to get out of this situation.
Hit the ball out of the tree
What this means, of course, is that you are willing to climb the tree and hit the ball. And if you did, you wouldn’t be the first. Sergio García and Bernhard Langer, among other renowned professional golfers, have climbed trees and played outside the tree.
But the chances of landing a decent hit in such a scenario are very slim. The chances of further spoiling the hole are much higher. The possibility of slipping, falling and getting hurt cannot be ruled out. So, if hitting a ball out of a tree is a possibility, and it is the only possibility that carries no penalty stroke.
Declare your ball stuck in the tree as unplayable
You may declare the ball unplayable under Rule 19, receive a penalty of one stroke. The place from which you measure the length of the two clubs is that place on the ground directly below where the ball lies on the tree.
But to use the non-playable option, you must be able to identify your ball. You can’t just assume it’s up there somewhere, and you can’t just assume a ball you see on the tree is yours. You must positively identify your ball on the tree.
That could mean trying to release it from the tree or climbing the tree simply to retrieve the ball for identification purposes. Before doing so, make sure you have announced your intention to treat it as unplayable. If you move the ball without making your intentions clear, you will incur a penalty stroke under Rule 9.4.
Implement Lost Ball Procedure
Unfortunately, you may not be able to find a ball that has lodged in a tree, even if you know it is somewhere. The only option then is to accept the lost-ball penalty and proceed under Rule 18.2. The lost ball penalty is stroke and distance; that means adding a one-stroke penalty to your score and returning to the point of the previous stroke, where you must re-strike.
Now you know what you can do if you have this situation at some point. Put our tips into practice!