Dangerous situations courtesy of wildlife are rare in this country, but thankfully when they do occur, the Rules of Golf take a common-sense approach...

Our Rules of Golf videos produced in association with The R&A offer advice on a variety of Rules-related issues, and in this particular one we take a look at 'dangerous situations'.

We share the golf course with all manner of flora and fauna, and exist in perfect harmony with the vast majority of it, especially in this part of the world. But although dangerous situations on the golf course are relatively few and far between, even within these shores certain animals and insects can still cause us a bit of a problem, and wildlife does occasionally intervene with the safe playing of the game.

Thankfully, the Rules of Golf allow for a degree of common sense in such instances, as the rule-makers would not expect you to put yourself in any unnecessary danger when playing a shot.

If your ball comes to rest in a situation that would, or could, bring with it a degree of danger, it would be unreasonable to insist that you play from such a dangerous situation, and unfair to require you to incur a penalty simply because your ball has strayed into the domain of certain creatures with whom we share the golf course.

In the UK and Ireland such situations might include bees’ nests, adders and swans (as in the accompanying video), which can get quite territorial, especially when they have their young with them.

One of the earliest Rules in the book – Rule 1-4 – dictates that in such circumstances you should proceed in accordance with equity.

So in a situation where attempting to play your ball could put you in a degree of danger, you may, without penalty, drop a ball within one club-length of, and not nearer the hole than, the nearest spot not nearer the hole that is not dangerous and is not in a hazard nor on a putting green.

However, there is a distinction between dangerous and merely unpleasant, so it is worth noting that there is no such relief from the variety of merely unpleasant lies that are a common occurrence out on the golf course when you have strayed from the mown grass.

So there would be no free relief from plants such as poison ivy, cacti, stinging nettles or prickly gorse, as such conditions are not unusual. In such circumstances you would simply face the choice of attempting to play it, or dropping under penalty under one of the unplayable ball options.


Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response