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Mulligan? Golfers consult rule book after ball lands on alligator’s back

The sport's overlords who wrote the rulebook encourage caution over foolhardiness.
Golf alligator
A golfer’s ball land on top of an alligator at a course in Okatie, SC.

Sand traps and water hazards can derail a golfer’s day on the greens, but at least they won’t eat you.

A South Carolina man’s unlucky shot may have left him considering his place on the food chain after his ball landed on an alligator’s back, a Facebook post shared Monday shows.

The large, scaly beast is seen sprawled out, sunning in the grass at the Spring Island Club in Okatie, with David Ksieniewicz’s ball sitting perfectly on top.

“Shot of the day!” Ksieniewicz’s daughter, Kristine Robinson, wrote.

A tough situation, but golf is a game of rules, one of which is to play the ball as it lies or suffer a penalty.

Is it worth risking life and limb for a one-stroke difference on the scorecard?

No, Ksieniewicz decided.

But thankfully his score didn’t suffer, thanks to a loophole the golfers found.

“Under rule 16.1, which addresses ‘abnormal course conditions,’ the player is ‘entitled to take relief with no penalty,’” Robinson said. “Which is good, because we determined that my dad David Ksieniewicz should PROBABLY consider this dangerously shanked shot UNPLAYABLE & start over.”

According to the USGA, it checks out. The rule specifies not to take a penalty in the case of “animal holes, ground under repair, immovable obstructions or temporary water.”

Are alligators an “immovable obstruction?” If you’re smart, yes.

However, flip a couple of pages over in the rule book to 16.2 for “dangerous animal conditions” — which mentions alligators specifically — and it’s clear Ksieniewicz is totally off the hook.

Alligators are as much a part of the Lowcountry scenery as palmetto trees, but they should always be treated with caution and appreciated at a distance.

They’re not something to tee off of, or otherwise harass — as some recently did at the Fripp Island Golf & Beach Resort, McClatchy News reported. One man was identified and charged in that incident.

“It’s against the law and this guy is going to pay a pretty hefty price,” state Department of Natural Resources spokesman David Lucas said about that incident last month. “But the safety issue is so much more serious than that. You could lose your life.”

Mitchell Willetts is a real-time news reporter covering the Carolinas for McClatchy. He is a University of Oklahoma graduate and outdoors enthusiast.

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