Know Your Ants

Fire Ants

Fire Ants
Photo: TAMU

The importance of insect identification is necessary in some surprising occupations such as “Golf Official”. At the PGA Championship in Sheboygan, WI, golfer Bubba Watson’s ball landed on an ant hill. Looking to improve the lie, Watson appealed to a Golf Official. Bubba argued the scientific position that ants are animals that make tunnels which makes them “burrowing animals” and sought a burrowing animal exemption.

A deceptively simple game of hitting a ball with a stick, golf comes with a thick set of rules including the USGA Decision 33-8/22 dealing with ants. From the USGA Rulebook:

Q. An ant hill is a loose impediment and may be removed, but there is no other relief without penalty. Some ant hills are conical in shape and hard, and removal is not possible, but relief under Rule 25-1b is not available since an ant is not a burrowing animal. If such ant hills interfere with the proper playing of the game, would a Local Rule providing relief be authorized?

A. Yes. A Local Rule stating that such ant hills are to be treated as ground under repair would be justified.

Such a Local Rule is also justified on courses where fire-ants exist. A fire-ants’ mound or hill is removable, but its removal will cause the fire-ants to swarm out of the ground. When this occurs, anyone in the vicinity is in danger of being bitten by the ants, and the bite of a fire-ant can cause serious illness.

If a Local Rule giving relief from fire-ants has not been adopted and a ball is so close to a fire-ants’ mound that the player is in danger, the player is, in equity, entitled to relief as prescribed in Decision 1-4/10.

Wisconsin does not have fire ants and the Tournament Official correctly noted that the ants in question were not fire ants. The rulebook clearly excludes ants from the burrowing animal rules, so Bubba lost the argument. Forced to play the ball where it lay, Bubba endured a brief round of ankle biting by the ants while concentrating on his shot.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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2 Responses to Know Your Ants

  1. Pingback: Know Your Ants | Entomo Planet

  2. Pingback: Know Your Ants | Entomo Planet

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