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Darren Clarke Suffers Costly Penalty over Bird Feeder

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Golf has a lot of strange rules, but who knew the USGA rulebook had a stipulation related bird to feeders?

Well, not bird feeders specifically, but immovable obstructions — of which a bird feeder is deemed one.

Darren Clarke found that out the hard way Thursday at the U.S. Senior Open at Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana — and he was not happy about it.

Here’s what happened. In the first round, Clarke blasted his tee shot on the 10th hole into the weeds.

He called over the rules officials to discuss his options while his caddie took matters into his own hands.

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There was a bird feeder in Clarke’s line, so the caddie tried to move it. Video showed him moving it back and forth to loosen it from the ground to take it out.

This turned out to be a two-stroke penalty.

The problem centered around what is considered movable and what is considered immovable.

Do you think the 2-stroke penalty is fair?

USGA Rule 15.2: Movable Obstructions, says: “This rule covers free relief that is allowed from artificial objects that meet the definition of movable obstruction. It does not give relief from immovable obstructions (a different type of free relief is allowed under Rule 16.1) or boundary objects or integral objects (no free relief is allowed).”

It adds: “Without penalty, a player may remove a movable obstruction anywhere on or off the course and may do so in any way.”

The caddie, technically, had a point. The bird feeder is movable, as he proved.

But in the eyes of the USGA, it is considered an immovable obstruction because it is a permanent fixture on the course, as Golf Digest explained.

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Rule 16-1 says: “This Rule covers free relief that is allowed from interference by animal holes, ground under repair, immovable obstructions or temporary water.”

A Golf Digest pointed out, “a player only receives relief when a) the player’s ball touches or is in or on an abnormal course condition b) abnormal course condition physically interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or area of intended swing c) or only when the ball is on the putting green, an abnormal course condition on or off the putting green intervenes on the line of play.”

In other words, there’s no relief.

To make matters worse, Clarke was not informed about the penalty until after he finished the hole. Thus, the former British Open champion’s bogey turned into a triple bogey and his round was shot.

He was clearly not happy with the ruling.

Clarke finished the round at 3-over, 11 shots behind the round one leaders David Toms and Steve Stricker.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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