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Is that a bunker or a hole made by a salamander?; GOLF GETS CRAZY NEW RULES.

BIZARRE new millennium golf rules are set to drive the game's players crazy.

An army of golfers - already teed-off with a bible of potty do's and don'ts - are about to land in a hole lot more trouble.

The fickle forces that be have decided to introduce rodent rules about burrowing animals.

Among the usual amendments to lost ball and out-of-bounds rules the new year almanac has gone all David Attenborough.

It warns its faithful followers about the difference between a catalogue of furry fairway diggers.

And it says if their ball ends up in an animal's hole they can only move it if the creature is on their 'burrower' list.

The new rule was introduced after heated rows on courses up and down the country.

Some golfers had the cheek to say a dog's diggings should be included on the list.

But the ruling body - who sit in golf heaven at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews - have barked at those suggestions.

To clarify the matter further, five examples of 'burrowers' are listed by the R&A - the rabbit, mole, groundhog, gopher and salamander.

Therefore, animals which excavate holes for other purposes - best described as recreational - are excluded, says the rule book.

"Golfers share their courses with wildlife," said R&A's rule chief David Rickman, whose organisation was founded in 1754.

"More often than you think balls land in holes dug by them.

"Historically there has been some argument over what a burrowing animal is and that is why we have this new definition.

"We've said a burrowing animal is one that digs for shelter or habitation.

"If their ball lands in a hole dug by a dog it's just bad luck. If it falls in a hole dug by a rabbit or mole it can be moved."

Groundhogs, gophers and salamanders get a free shot because the rules have to cover all eventualities in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Mr Rickman added: "As the game extended overseas we have had to accommodate other animals.

"They reflect the global nature of the game. Golf is played all over the world and we had to have examples other players could relate to."

But professional golfer Steve Bowen, who teaches at the Celtic Manor course in south Wales, can see problems with the new rules already.

"How do you know what is dug by a dog and what is dug by another creature?" said Steve.

"How do you know a mole hasn't started digging, been disturbed and left its hole looking like another animal's been there?

"I'm no mammal expert and I'm sure a lot of golfers aren't - there's a big grey area, but that's the great thing about the game.

"The rules do try to cover every eventuality but the game is so random you can never account for everything that happens.

"We have to learn the rules to be able to teach the game but there's always something to catch you out." Other bizarre rules designed to offer golfers creature comforts on the course include what to do if your ball lands on a snake.

And what happens if your ball squashes a bug in mid-flight and a second insect climbs on your ball to investigate?

And what to do if your ball falls in a hippo's footprint or lands close to a crocodile.

David Rickman said changes to the new rules - which came into effect on January 1 - "were kept to a minimum".

He said the R&A - with the United States Golf Association - had worked for four years on its 2000 Rules to make them as clear and concise as possible.

Four million copies of the new book and its chapter on burrowing will be distributed to golfers free across the globe.

A few other interesting facts include:

-During the Second World War a ball destroyed by an enemy bomb could be replaced with another.

-At the Glen Canyon course in Arizona a local rule says: 'If your ball lands within a club length of a rattlesnake you can move it without penalty.'

-The 6th hole at Koolan Island in Western Australia also serves as a local airstrip. A sign reads: 'Aircraft have right of way at all times.'

-In 1457 golf was banned by the parliament of King James II who felt it was getting so popular it was interfering with the sport of archery.

-In 1971, sniffer-dog Chico was made an honourary member of Waihi GC in New Zealand for finding lost golf balls.

-Novelist Mark Twain called golf "a good walk spoiled."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Lamport, Jason
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 6, 2000
Words:759
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