Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ask Linda #793-Is returning a ball a practice stroke?

Dear Linda,

In a stroke play comp Player A hits his drive into the thick rough and elects to play a provisional ball. All four players search and find the first ball, which is now in play.

Player B picks up A's provisional ball on his way past it then drops it on the fairway and returns it to A by hitting it forward towards him with a 9 iron.

Has B played a practice shot or infringed any rule and if so what is the penalty?

Thanking you in anticipation,
Lou from N. Ireland

Dear Lou,

There is a Decision that allows a player to hit a ball to another player on an adjacent fairway who requests the return of an errant shot. In this Decision [7-2/5.5], the player is too far away for a toss, and hitting the ball back is deemed a courtesy.

In your scenario, both players are in the same group, and it would be a simple matter to hand over the ball when the players catch up to one another. While the player returning the ball may not have meant for the return shot to be a practice stroke, it might be interpreted as such by a Committee reviewing the scenario. The penalty would be two strokes under Rule 7-2 if the Committee ruled against the player.

With no pressing need to return the ball immediately, the prudent and considerate procedure would be to return the ball by hand. Hitting the ball runs the risks of a two-stroke penalty and of injuring a player if the ball is miss-hit.  

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