Seconds after Australian golfer Aaron Baddeley teed off at No. 5, Mike Walsh, watching on the right side of the fairway, threw his hands over his head for cover.
“Fore!” several patrons in the crowd shouted.
The 31-year-old golfer hit the ball into the woods on the right side of the fairway. Several patrons scrambled to be the lucky one to find the ball.
Baddeley’s errant shot caused him to retee and led to a triple bogey, but it also made even experienced golfers in the crowd wonder. What are a player’s options when he hits a ball into an unplayable area?
Bob Michaud, of Aiken, has played golf for 40 years, and he still had to ask the rules official for an explanation of what Baddeley could do next.
“I didn’t know what he could do, but it was pretty exciting to see a professional hit a shot as bad as I would,” Michaud said. “I felt bad for him, but I also learned something.”
According to the United States Golf Association’s Rule 28, a player has three options if the ball is deemed unplayable. All come with a one-stroke penalty. The options:
• Return to where the ball was last played.
• Drop the ball any distance behind the point where the ball is lying, keeping a straight line from the hole, the point where the ball lay and the spot on which the ball is dropped.
• Drop the ball within two club lengths of where the ball lies, but not nearer the hole.
Several patrons in the crowd who were pulling for Baddeley were disappointed about the outcome.
Nick Michad traveled from Melbourne to watch his countrymen play and felt a sting with Baddeley’s wayward shot.
“We’re devastated for him, but we’re following him the whole course,” Michad said.
When Baddeley’s ball sailed into the shrubs, there was an experienced hunter on hand. Walsh once found a ball Greg Kraft hit into the woods at the U.S. Open, he said.
Walsh alerted the rules official to where the ball landed, and Baddeley spent several minutes deciding whether he could play it. Baddeley decided not to, and Walsh agreed.
“It was pretty deep in there,” Walsh said. “But it’s always exciting to be the one to find the ball.”