Monday, November 18, 2013

Ask Linda #748-Playing a found “lost” ball

Dear Linda:
Yesterday I was playing a Par 5 in a casual game with two friends. One friend's drive was hit into the trees and the ball couldn't be found. He went back to the tee and hit a second ball, which went into the middle of the fairway. I played my second shot and (to keep up the pace of play) walked forwards towards the green. When I looked back, my friend was chipping his first ball out from the trees because the third player had found his ball. He then hit that ball again and then again, before walking over to pick up his second drive! I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but couldn't shout back any warnings as golfers were on adjacent holes. Once my friend reached me, he couldn't believe how stupid he'd been!!

My questions are . . .
. . . how do we assess the number of penalty strokes my friend incurred?
. . . what is the correct procedure (is he obliged to go back and play from the position of his second drive)?
. . . in a competitive round, would he have been disqualified if he hadn't done so? 
. . . in matchplay, at what point does "loss of hole" take effect?

(Of course, none of these penalties were assessed in our round as we were just friends in a casual round.)

Many thanks, Linda, for the excellent service you provide to golfers everywhere.
Lou from England

Dear Lou,

Let’s examine the correct procedure “by the book” first.

When your friend walked back to the tee and hit a second tee shot, his original ball was “lost” under the Rules [Definition of Lost Ball]. The second tee shot became his ball “in play,” and was his third shot on the hole [Rule 27-1]. When he abandoned his ball in play and continued play of the hole with his lost ball (physically found, but officially lost), he was playing a wrong ball [Definition of Wrong Ball]. When he picked up his second drive, he lifted his ball in play.

In match play, he loses the hole as soon as he hits the wrong ball.

In stroke play, he incurs a one-stroke penalty for a lost ball (stroke and distance), a two-stroke penalty for playing a wrong ball, and a one-stroke penalty for lifting his ball in play. He must replace his ball in the fairway and complete play of the hole with that ball (the second ball hit from the tee). When he hits that ball, it will be his seventh stroke on the hole [Decision 27-2b/9]. If he fails to do this, he is disqualified after he tees off on the next hole [Rule 15-3].

In a casual round, if the player has a motorized cart and there are no players behind him that will be inconvenienced, he could zip back and play that second ball. However, if he is on foot and will cause a major backup on the golf course, I am going to suggest a procedure that does not follow the Rules but keeps the peace on the course.

Count the first stroke, the second stroke plus the penalty (stroke and distance), a two-stroke penalty for hitting the wrong ball, a one-stroke penalty for lifting his ball in play, plus all the remaining strokes it took to complete the hole. When he hits the lost ball that was found (the wrong ball), he will be hitting his seventh stroke on the hole.

I don’t object to people making accommodations in a casual round that will keep the score fairly accurate and expedite pace of play. Just don’t get in the habit of bending the rules. You don’t want to forget the correct procedure and get disqualified from a tournament!  

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