Trees became quite prominent in two recent PGA Tour golf tournaments. At the WGC-Cadillac Championship (Doral) Tiger Woods hit a drive that ended up in a tree during the third round. He took a drop with a one-stroke penalty.
In the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Sergio Garcia’s drive also landed in a tree. Showing a good deal of athletic ability, Sergio climbed the tree to identify his ball (unlike Tiger) and was actually able to configure a shot.
RULE 28, OPTION C
The rule pertaining to a ball embedded in a tree covers both of these options, and an additional one. In Tiger’s situation, he was able to identify the ball (with the aid of binoculars) as his own. He could then declare the ball “unplayable” under option “C” of Rule-28. This entitled him to drop within two club lengths of the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in the tree with a one-stroke penalty.
He proceeded to hit his “third” shot onto the green and two-putted for a bogey. Sergio, after climbing the tree, was also able to identify his ball. In his case, he could play it with a backhanded shot that got him into the fairway.
Unfortunately, even though he had gained about 30 favorable yards, he injured his shoulder during the dismount and made a double-bogey. He ultimately withdrew from the tournament.
The other option presents itself when the player is unable to identify the ball within five minutes (Rule 27-1c). The player must then play a ball, under penalty of one-stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played. In the previous cases this would have taken the players back to the tee.
Moral of the story: Keep your drives out of the trees. Good luck with that!