Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ask Linda #285–Provisional misunderstanding

Hi Linda,
Could you please clarify a rule for me regarding provisional balls as there was a disagreement this weekend in our friendly competition.

A player hit a ball from the tee that rolled just off the fairway into the rough. Confident it could be found the player went and looked for it.

After a couple of minutes looking for it, the player dropped a ball around the spot where he thought the ball had been lost. He took a one shot penalty and said: “I will play a provisional ball, but I will continue to walk towards the hole and if I find my original ball I will play it.”

He hit the provisional onto the green and then proceeded to walk towards the green along the edge of the rough. After about 10 paces he found his original ball and said: “I have found it, I will play my original ball”. He then played his 2nd shot from there and finished the hole with his original ball.

He then picked up the provisional he had hit when he got to the green and put it in his pocket

So my question is: Is a player able to play his original ball after taking a provisional or should he have taken the penalty for the lost ball and continued to play the provisional ?

I hope this is clear…
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,
Sit down, take a deep breath, and pay close attention, Lou, because every procedure you describe in your letter is incorrect.

Your friend was not entitled to drop what he mistakenly called a “provisional ball” in the area where he thought his ball was lost. If he suspected his tee shot might be lost, he would have had to hit a second ball from the tee before going forward to search for his original ball. Once he goes forward to search, he loses the option to hit a provisional ball [Rule 27-2a]. If he has to return to the tee to hit a second ball, that second ball becomes the ball in play under stroke and distance and the original ball, even if found, is officially lost [Rule 27-1a].

When your friend dropped and played another ball, it became the ball in play. Unfortunately, the new ball was now an incorrectly substituted ball played from a wrong place. Ordinarily, the penalty for playing an incorrectly substituted ball would be two strokes [Rule 15-2]. However, since this ball was also played from the wrong place, that rule takes precedence [Rule 20-7c]. The player is not penalized for both violations.

The penalty for hitting from the wrong place is two strokes. That would be the end of the story except for the fact that your friend committed what is known as a “serious breach.” This is because the place where he hit that substituted ball was considerably closer to the hole than the tee box, which is where he was required to hit the substituted ball.

This situation must be corrected. If the player returns to the tee to play a second ball in accordance with the rules before he tees off on the next hole, then he is still in the game – his penalty is two strokes and the score with this second ball is the one that will count. Otherwise, he is disqualified [Rule 27-c].

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.