Your Golf Shot Hits Overhead Power Lines: What's the Ruling?

What to do when overhead cables get in the way of your golf ball

Luke Donald tees off in the shadow of huge power cables at Eichenried Golf Club in Germany
Power lines sometimes run around or through golf courses. Do you know what to do if your golf ball hits one?. Warren Little/Getty Images

Here's the sitation: You're playing a golf course where large electrical towers or utility poles are posted, and electrical wires or other overhead cables are strung next to or even across one or more fairways. You tee the ball up, take a whack, and your beautiful drive flies straight into the overhead cables, deflecting away. Do you get to replay the stroke without penalty, or is it rub of the green and play the ball as it lies?

A Specific Decision Under the Rules Addresses Situtation

This situation falls broadly under Rule 33-8a; it's specifically addressed in Decision 33-8/13.

Rule 33-8a states:

"The Committee may establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I."

(Appendix I is the appendix that covers Local Rules.)

So, broadly speaking, your local course or club can enact rules specific to conditions at your course, as long as they do so in accordance with the guidelines set forth in Appendix I (covering Local Rules) to the Rules of Golf.

Luckily, Decision 33-8/13 makes the proper course of action when your ball hits overhead cables more clear. That decision states:

"Q. An overhead power line is so situated that a perfectly played shot can be deflected. Would it be proper for the Committee to make a Local Rule allowing a player whose ball is deflected by this power line to replay the stroke, without penalty, if he wishes?

"A. No. However, a Local Rule requiring a player to replay the stroke would be acceptable."

Decision 33-8/13 goes on to suggest how such a local rule should read (see Rules of Golf and Decisions on the Rules of Golf on

Option, or Requirement, to Replay Stroke?

Note carefully the wording of the quoted passage above: "... to replay the stroke, without penalty, if he wishes?" "No. However, a Local Rule requiring ..."

The key to this Local Rule is that, if it is in effect, it requires the golfer to replay the stroke without penalty. There is no golfer's option. If your ball strikes a power line or overhead cable and the Local Rule suggested under Decision 33-8/13 is in effect, you must replay the stroke without penalty (even if your shot deflected into the perfect spot).

Likewise, if such a local rule is not in effect, you may not replay the stroke (unless you are willing to declare the ball unplayable and take the resulting penalty). You must play the ball as it lies.

It Comes Down to Whether the Local Rule Is In Effect

So the key, obviously, is finding out whether a Local Rule covering power lines/overhead cables is in effect at a golf course where they might, possible, come into play. Check with the pro shop to find out, or consult the scorecard and/or yardage book.

To summarize: If your ball hits a power line or overhead cable, and the Local Rule covered in Decision 33-8/13 is in effect, you must cancel the stroke and replay it without penalty, as close as possible to the spot of the original stroke. If such a local rule is not in effect, you must play the ball as it lies.

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