Rules Guy: What's the penalty if you pick up your ball to escape a swarm of hornets?

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What do the rules say about dealing with a hornet’s nest?
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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.
My playing partner hit his ball into tall grass. As he was about to play it, he was swarmed by hornets—we must have disturbed their nest. He grabbed his ball, took a few steps back out of the tall-grass area, and played his shot (un-stung, thankfully). He had moved it further from the hole but into a different grass. When he asked me how he should score the hole, I wasn’t sure. Add a penalty stroke? Is there any rule that permits free relief if playing it as it lies is dangerous? —Joe Skarbek, Woodstock, Ga.
There is such a rule, Joe, but it doesn’t sound like your playing partner followed it.
Rule 16.2 provides relief from dangerous animal situations, and stinging hornets would qualify … but the correct procedure is to find the nearest point of complete relief (the nearest spot where there is no longer danger), in this case still in the general area, and then drop within one club-length of that no nearer the hole.
For more situational rules guidance from our guru, read on …
The other day I hit a tee ball that looked like it was headed OB, on the wrong side of a chain-link fence. I looked for my original ball and found it inbounds. On the other side of the fence were children playing … whose grins made me suspect they’d just done me a favor. Do I play on and assume I got a lucky bounce or…? —Bill Berg, Dallas, Texas
Bill, either you have a guilty conscience or you’re a fine reader of children’s minds, a skill that Rules Guy lacks, at least according to Rules Boy.
A look alone doesn’t mean you have the information you need to act upon. If there’s some doubt as to the status of the ball and whether it was moved from out of bounds, you need to figure that out. Next time, just nicely ask the kids what happened.
If the ball wasn’t touched, obviously you’re in the clear; if it was tossed from OB back into play, you’d proceed accordingly … back to the tee box, under Rule 18.2b, hitting 3 but with a clean conscience.
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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you. and GOLF Magazine are published by EB GOLF MEDIA LLC, a division of 8AM GOLF


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