Reddit Golf

Reddit Golf Content of the Week: Never pick up a stranger's ball

September 05, 2023


Late at night, when normal human beings are sleeping, one writer spends literal hours on Reddit Golf, a treasure trove of humor, whining, equipment scores, outright lies and occasionally some great advice. It also led him, once upon a time, to Bucket Hat Guy. Each Friday, he will bring the site's best content to you, so that you can live a normal life.

One of the most urgent goals in my life is to break 80. I'm one of those rare golf writers who never played as a kid, thus limiting how good I'll ever be, but who has nonetheless become an obsessive in my middle age and who spends more time than he should thinking about how to get better. I've come achingly close to a glorious 79, but it's still just slightly out of my reach. When it happens, as I pray it will, I want it to be special, and I don't want anything to ruin it. Which is why I found myself boiling with rage reading this story from a Reddit user named PattyGunk, with the enticing title "Broke 80 for the first time but..."

Patty writes:

"Hit my approach into the left rough on 18 and needed better than a triple or better to break 80 for my first time. As I’m driving up, I see a guy walk over and look around, before he proceeds to pick up and pocket the ball I’d been using the whole round. When I asked him if he saw a ball nearby, he denied it and wouldn’t hand it over. Ended up paring the hole for a 77, but it kinda sucked to not have the ball I used to do it. People suck"

My. God.

I'm genuinely seeing red. It's so easy to put yourself in Patty's shoes, on the verge of achieving a dream—later in the thread, Patty said he had shot 81 six different times—and some absolute [unprintable noun] has to dip his beak in and screw it up. The really frustrating thing about this is that you can't know with 100% certainty that it was actually your ball. I mean, you know, but you don't know, you know? So after this jamoke took the ball, Patty had to replace it, and he went on to make par, but if he's anything like me, it probably ruined the moment because of that nagging thought that maybe, just maybe, his ball was lost. That's the kind of mental havoc this jerk is wreaking. No joke, this story is almost unbearable, and if it happened to me I might be writing this post from Durham County prison.

That's the other aggravating thing here—Patty seems like a nice guy. As far as we can tell, he asked the guy to give it back, the guy refused, and Patty thought better of escalating. Which is the smart thing to do! Good for you, Patty! But it does mean that the bad guy won in this situation, instead of being dumped into the nearest gully.

One user asked Patty to elaborate on what happened—had he hit into the group ahead of him? The answer was no:

The ball came to rest in the rough next to an adjacent tee box. I’m assuming he saw a nice Pro-V close by while teeing off, and just decided it was his. The tee box is only about 15 yards left of the green side bunker, definitely a popular spot to bail out as there is water short right.

In that situation, there seems to be no justification for picking up a ball that's not yours. I pronounce this anonymous stranger guilty and sentence him to 1,000 years of those golf dreams where you're trying to hit a drive but there's a wall right behind you.

The responses were mostly sympathetic, but this is the Internet, and a few users couldn't resist tweaking him:

—You didn't take the stroke and distance for the lost ball? Not a legit sub-80 then, sorry to say....

—So you lost your ball and took an illegal drop? Entire round invalidated. Sorry good luck breaking 80 someday.

Others wondered why he didn't just fight the guy—a bad, yet understandable reaction—but sanity prevailed for the most part. And it turns out that Patty is not alone. A couple users chimed in with similar stories that were equally devastating. This one from Floaded93 is long but tragic enough that you'll want to read the whole thing:

The same thing happened to me once. I’m a relatively high hcp ~20. Often play a course that is relatively easy and a Par 70 so not as impressive as a Par 72 and more difficult course but still an incredible feat for me.

Was playing out of my mind, just totally locked in. Knees weak, arms heavy, etc, missed a couple 6 footers the prior few holes and I needed a birdie on 18 for an 80. My heart is legitimately racing, my best score on this course previously was an 88 so this is by far my best round ever anywhere.

18 is what my friends and I like to call the “bring em back” hole. It’s relatively straight, not overly long from the whites. About 330ish but has some bunkers around on an elevated green. At this time left was open and right is open (another fairway but not considered OB.) basically no matter what type of round you’re having just send it and get it as far as you can for a simple wedge in. It’s a hole I can get lots of pars on, even some birdies, at my skill level.

I get up to the tee and there’s 2 guys in a cart just short of the green, embarrassingly I cannot reach them (I’m sorry r/Golf.) So I tee up and go through my pre shot routine, hit. My ball starts a little left but not terribly so and I’m waiting for my normal fade / cut. Nope, just going straight, typical. Again, it’s heading left rough but only by a few yards.

As I’m tracking my ball I notice these bozos driving BACK down the left hand side of the fairway about 40 yards right where my ball is going. Yell “fore!” They hit a ball and continue towards the green again to putt out. I’m thinking “there’s no way they hit my ball” I saw exactly where it landed around this particular, single small tree, in the left rough.

I drive up in my cart with my buddy who was helping me stay locked in when he realized I was having the round of my life. We go up there and search for a few minutes and my ball is nowhere to be found. Not OB, not lost, those idiots (who appeared to be newer golfers the entire round) hit my ball.

I’m absolutely devastated. Didn’t lose a ball the entire round and regardless of what happened on that hole it would have easily been my best round ever so I was looking forward to keeping it as a token.

My buddy lets me drop in the area we saw it land at, and where the other group came back at hit from. I end up hitting a nice wedge shot getting it to about 8-10ft and of course hit the slider of a put to the cup for a “birdie.” Shot an 80 but it felt like those guys robbed me of the joy of my round. It gave me a sour taste in my mouth and makes me feel like I have an asterisk next to my card.

If you are reading this I hope you get a putter to your shin. It’s been over a year and I still think about it from time to time.

The sad thing is, this isn't even my story, but now I'm probably going to think about it from time to time.

Here's a simple tip that seems to be hard to follow: If you find a ball in play, don't pick it up until you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it doesn't belong to someone currently playing the course. (The only exception here, in my mind, is when somebody hits into you egregiously for the second time.) And when you think you know beyond the shadow of a doubt, still don't pick it up. If you're a ball monger, just do what normal people do and hunt in the woods or bring one of those old man water picker poles. When you pick up a ball that isn't yours, you might be ruining someone's day. Think of Patty and keep your hands to yourself.