Johnny Bulla and the Dog
ARDMORE, Pa. – In the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, Johnny Bulla was preparing to tee off on the 14th hole during the third round when a dog from a house across Golf House Road came through the crowd and grabbed his golf ball.
What was the ruling?
The Definition of Ball in Play says that a ball is not in play until the player makes his first stroke at it from the teeing ground. Therefore, Bulla’s ball was not in play. This is the same as if he had accidentally bumped the ball of the tee before making his stroke and he could re-tee that ball or another ball anywhere in the teeing ground.
Had this happened after he had started a hole, his ball would have been in play and Rule 18-1 – Ball at Rest Moved – By Outside Agency, would have required him to replace the ball. If the ball was not immediately recoverable, he could have substituted a ball. If he had not been in a position to see where the ball had been before the dog moved it, Rule 20-3c – Placing and Replacing – Spot Not Determinable would have required him to drop it if the ball had been through the green or in a hazard as near as possible to the estimated location, or if it had been on the putting green, to place it at the estimated location.
Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules communications for the USGA.