Monday, February 10, 2014

Ask Linda #791-Ball in tree not identified

Dear readers,
There are so many questions related to this incident that I thought it best to address them in the body of the question. My answers are in italics.


This situation was related to me by a member of our league about an incident during her match play.

The opponent teed off and her ball went into an area with trees. The foursome went to look for the ball and there was a ball in the trees that could have been hers but the opponent said she did not want to look any further for her ball, nor did she want anyone else to do so. She said she would go back to the tee and hit a provisional. Our team member retrieved the ball from the trees (supposedly just to take home a found ball) but it turned out it was the opponent’s original ball. The opponent continued to play the provisional ball. The opponent took stroke and distance penalty by going back to the tee, but our team thought she should then have abandoned the provisional ball and played the original ball.

Before I address your questions, Lulu, I want to advise everyone of a recent change to the provisional ball rule. A player is no longer required to hit a provisional before going forward. She may proceed a short distance (interpreted as approximately 50 yards) before deciding to return to the tee to hit a provisional. Please read Decision 27-2a/1.5 for a detailed explanation.

This new Decision is not applicable to the situation described by Lulu, since the player walked to the area where her ball was presumed to lie and began search.

The questions are:

1.    Does a player have an option to declare her ball lost at any time and not look for it when it is known that it did not go out of bounds or in a hazard? A player is always entitled to hit another ball under stroke and distance. There is never a requirement to search for the original ball.
2.    Don’t you have to hit a provisional ball, and declare as such, before you start looking for the original ball? The player may walk forward a short distance (50 yards, give or take), decide it would be best to hit a provisional, and return to the tee to hit a provisional ball.
3.    I know you can deem your ball unplayable any time (which the opponent may have meant by taking the option to replay from the previous position) but I thought you must first identify it. The opponent was playing under stroke and distance when she returned to the previous spot. She could have just as easily declared her ball “unplayable” – the procedure and penalty would be the same. While you must identify a ball to choose the line-of-sight or two-club-length relief options for an unplayable ball, you are not required to identify your ball when you choose the stroke and distance relief option.
4.    Did our team member do anything wrong by retrieving the ball and advising that it was the original ball? No. Once the opponent played a ball under stroke and distance, the original ball was “lost” under the Rules. Returning the ball to its owner is just a courtesy.
5.    After hitting a provisional ball, I know you must play the original ball, if found, even after hitting subsequent shots with the provisional ball. Shouldn’t the opponent have played the original ball? No. The ball played under stroke and distance is the ball in play. It is not a provisional ball.
6.    Are there any differences in options with Match Play vs. Stroke Play? No.

Lulu from New Jersey

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