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Weird Rulebook: The USGA’s oddest rule against ball substitution

If this happens to you, bring a bathing suit.

Imagine you’re picking up your ball to mark a putt. You decide, “hey, this ball is a little dirty, I’m going to toss it to my caddie to clean off for me.” You toss the ball to your caddie and ole butterfingers drops the ball and it rolls into a water hazard. No big deal, you can just grab another ball from your bag right? WRONG.

The USGA has a rule for this exact scenario.

Basically, if your ball ends up in a water hazard, you’re out of luck unless you want to take a 2-stroke penalty or jump into the water and find it. That’s exactly what one Jacksonville University golfer had to do in NCAA regionals when his ball tumbled out of his pocket and into a nearby pond. He stripped down and hopped into the water but never found his ball, and a penalty ensued.

A similar situation happened to Dustin Johnson on the PGA Tour in 2016. Luckily, his caddie (who happens to be his brother) jumped into the water for him and found his ball. DJ survived the hole with a birdie.

There is a lot of weirdness in the golf rulebook, so golfer, beware! The next time you pick up your putt, make sure you keep an ironclad grip on that ball, or else get ready to go swimming.