Things don't always land where they're supposed to on a fairway, but the shark that mysteriously appeared near the 12th tee of a California golf club seems to have been the result of a birdie.

The 2-foot (60 cm) leopard shark is thought to have been picked up by an osprey off the nearby Pacific coast and dropped as the bird flew over the San Juan Hills Golf Club south of Los Angeles, club officials said Thursday.

"One of our on-duty marshals was making his rounds and noticed something wriggling in the grass on our number 12 tee," Director of Club Operations Melissa McCormack told AFP, recounting Monday's incident.

"After going over to investigate, he realized it was a small shark. He promptly placed it in the back of his golf cart and brought it to the clubhouse."

McCormack, who snapped a picture, said the fish had what appeared to be bite marks which made them think it was dropped from a bird's beak. They decided to rush it back to the ocean, five miles (8 km) away.

"We placed it in water and knew we had to get it to the ocean immediately. One of our cart attendants offered to bring it down to the beach in Dana Point where it was released.

"After placing it in the water, it was still for a moment before flipping around and swimming off. We believe it got to the golf course by way of osprey because there were puncture wounds with fresh blood under the dorsal fin.

"Our proximity to the ocean and the fact that both leopard sharks and osprey are common to the area also support that theory," she added.