Monday, March 10, 2014

Ask Linda #807-Unlimited provisionals

I have a question regarding when a ball is deemed abandoned. In a recent league match, Player A hit a ball into a wooded area but didn’t hit a provisional ball. After looking for two minutes, Player A announces that he will go back to the tee to hit a provisional ball, but wants the other players to continue searching for the original ball for the remaining three minutes. This is done in an effort to speed play. However, another competitor stated that once a player begins to go back to the tee, the original ball is deemed lost. Is this an accurate interpretation of the Rules?

As an additional question, is there any time when it is not within the Rules to hit a provisional ball, other than when the ball is virtually certain to have gone into a water hazard? For example, some guys in our league will at times hit provisional balls even when the original ball is very likely still in play. It seems to be a way to get in a practice shot and is very likely against the spirit of the Rules. However, I can’t find anything in the Rules that prohibits a player from hitting a provisional ball, other than if the ball is virtually certain to have gone into a water hazard.

Lou from Indiana

Dear Lou,

It is perfectly acceptable for a player to search for his ball for two minutes and ask his fellow competitors to continue searching for the next three minutes while he returns to the tee. The ball is not deemed lost until five minutes have elapsed or the player hits another ball from the tee [“stroke and distance,” Rule 27-1]. It is not the walk back to the tee that deems the ball lost, but rather the hitting of another ball. (Please note that the player is not returning to the tee to hit a provisional ball; he is returning to the tee to put a new ball in play.)

A player is entitled to hit a provisional ball for a ball that may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds. A player who hits another ball when the original is clearly in play is not hitting a provisional ball – that so-called "provisional ball" is now the ball in play, and incurs a stroke-and-distance penalty [Decision 27-2a/3]. Count the stroke with the original ball, add a one-stroke penalty, count the stroke (and all subsequent strokes) with the second ball that is now in play, and pick up the original ball (which is now "lost" under the Rules – see Definition of "Lost Ball").

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