Rules Throwback: A Ball Inside a Beer Bottle? October 2, 2017 By Jamie Wallace, USGA


What happens if your ball comes to rest inside a broken beer bottle? In the second round of the 1949 Open Championship at Royal St George’s Golf Club in England, competitor Harry Bradshaw found himself in this exact situation. Unaware that the Rules of Golf provided free relief for interference by artificial objects on the golf course, Bradshaw attempted to hit the ball by shattering the bottle. In the video below, former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan explains the situation further. The video even includes a re-creation of the incident, complete with an attempted swing at a ball inside a glass bottle.

Under the Rules of Golf, Rule 24 provides free relief from both movable and immovable obstructions, which includes nearly all artificial objects found on a golf course. Free relief is provided because these objects are not meant to be part of the strategic challenge of a round of golf. Instead of playing the ball as it lay, Bradshaw could have removed the ball from inside the bottle, lifted and removed the bottle, and then dropped the ball as near as possible to the spot directly under where the ball originally lay. This is covered in the current of the Rules of Golf under Rule 24-1.

At the end of 72 holes of stroke play, Bradshaw, who made a six on the hole, ended up tied with Bobby Locke, setting the stage for a 36-hole playoff. Locke went on to win the playoff by 12 strokes. As Hannigan says at the end of the video, “It pays to know your rights under the Rules of Golf.”

Jamie Wallace is the manager of Rules education and digital content for the USGA. Email him at

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