Referee Challenge: Putt deflected by leaf blown by the wind

This doesn’t happen every day (and its just as well). I have posted this as it has been the source of much debate amongst the Wiltshire Referees recently – many emails being exchanged without a consensus being reached. It may be one to refer to the R&A.

This video from YouTube shows the scenario – please note that this is from 2017 so the discussion in the commentary is based on the rules as they were at the time and not the 2019 edition. Also, apologies for the commentators’ language.

So, a stroke played from the green was deflected by a leaf that was blowing in the wind.

Under the 2019 rule book – what is the ruling and how should the player proceed? As this has been the root of a lot of discussion, please could you make sure you include the basis for your reasoning and ruling in your comments. What rule numbers / interpretations / definitions are you applying?

NB During the email debate amongst the refs we were reminded that we are all one decision away from being wrong but thankfully have the protection of Rule 20.2. Perhaps the only unarguable answer is that the player should call a referee before doing anything else.

6 thoughts on “Referee Challenge: Putt deflected by leaf blown by the wind

  1. Hi Stuart, I would say that Int 9.6/1 tells us that something moved by the wind is an outside influence not a natural force. I know this int . is in the context of a ball at rest and an obstruction being blown by the wind rather than a loose impediment but I would say the principle is established. And Defn. of Outside Influence includes natural and artificial objects.

    So for a stroke played on the putting green the ruling would be as per 11.1b exception 2. The stroke is replayed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Stuart and Matt, Stuart will already know my views. Having concluded that the leaf is an Outside Influence 11.1b specifically applies to A Person, Animal or Movable Obstruction (all specific definitions) it does not state that it applies to a Movable Obstruction so the Exception does not apply and the ball must be played as it lies in accordance with 11.1b.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Greetings Don, Well spotted. I read the introduction to 11.1 “Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person or Outside Influence” but I failed to spot that the wording in the Exception specifically applies only to a Person, Animal or Movable Obstruction. I therefore change my mind and agree with you on this one.

      We must assume this is wording is specific and intentional which then begs the interesting question as to why 9.6 and 11.1b are different in the way they categorise “things” blown by the wind and what was in the minds of the R&A/USGA when they chose the wording.

      I think one could construct an argument that is logical, particularly as we are dealing with an “exception” to 11.1b anyway but it is not simple. One can argue that a wind-blow leaf is a “natural” thing and therefore not replaying the putt is kind of logical and that a wind-blown plastic bag is artificial and therefore a replay is possibly logical, but it’s a tenuous one for me and with (clearly!) potential for misunderstanding

      I know there have been issues under the old rules, with player’s balls being deflected by wind-blown leaves and the putt not being replayed and maybe this was a way of removing the jeopardy of that scenario? Thanks again for your reply. Matt

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Matt & Don.

        The two sides of the email debate are very well illustrated by your responses. (Don I think you meant to type “… does not state that it applies to a Loose Impediment …” (rather than Movable Obstruction) in your answer).

        I also think that the rules now require the ball to be played as it lies – the key being the move away from the phrase “any moving….outside agency” which was in the previous rules. My logic for not including Loose Impediments in the exception 2 to 11.1b is that if the putt hit any leaf or goose dung it would have to be replayed (unless the exception were restricted to “moving loose impediments”).

        (For those who don’t know them, Don & Matt are both experienced referees on their respective county panels).


  3. Hi Stuart
    Obviously a senior moment!!! I actually meant to write “outside influence” because that is the wording used in 11.1 and 11.1b and missed out in Exception 2. The leaf being both an outside influence and a loose impediment in this case. I think!!

    Liked by 1 person

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