Monday, December 29, 2014

Ask Linda 971-Provisional for ball possibly lost outside hazard

Hi Linda,

I am playing golf again after 25 years off. Learning the rules again is actually something I am enjoying. Thank you for your blog; I am finding it very informative and easy to understand.

My question is about playing a provisional ball when not sure if ball is lost in hazard or rough.

On my home course we have a par 3 that is 170m to the pin with a 140m carry over water hazard. 

The face of the water hazard in front of the green has a steep slope with heavy rough at the top. Some of the rough is in the hazard and some of it is not.

The other day my tee shot went into that rough. I was not sure if I would find it or not. So I declared a provisional. As it turned out, I found my tee shot just in play.

However afterward at the nineteenth hole a fellow competitor said I was lucky that my first ball was found outside the hazard as the provisional ball can only be played if ball is lost outside hazard.

I need some clarification on a few points. 

On this hole it can be difficult to know whether ball was lost in or outside the hazard. If I couldn't find my ball and I didn't know if it was lost in or outside the hazard, could I have played the provisional, as it is the same penalty – stroke and distance? (I must clarify here that the only option is to re-tee, nowhere to drop.)

I can't see the point in a long walk back to tee if I already have a ball in play under the same penalty of stroke and distance. To take this one step further, say I found my tee shot unplayable in the hazard. Can I play the provisional ball that I played when not knowing whether or not the tee shot was in hazard? Or do I have to go back to tee and reload because tee shot is in hazard?

Lou from Adelaide, Australia

Dear Lou,

You are entitled to hit a provisional ball for a ball that may be lost outside a hazard [Rule 27-2a].

If you find the original ball outside the hazard, you must abandon the provisional and continue with the original. Should you decide to declare the found original unplayable, and there is no place to drop other than back at the tee, you must return to the tee. You may not continue with a provisional ball once the original is found [Rule 27-2c].

If you find the original ball in the hazard, you must abandon the provisional and continue with the original [Decision 27-2a/2.2]. According to your description of the hole, this would likely involve a trip back to the tee.

If you do not find the original ball, you must continue with the provisional ball.

Copyright © 2014 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.

Response from Lou:

Thank you for the clarification on the ruling. I understand it now. However it seems like the rule wastes unnecessary time to me. If your ball is found unplayable in the hazard you walk back to the tee to play a third ball when the provisional ball you played thinking the ball was outside of hazard could be the ball in play under the exact same penalty of stroke and distance.

Also, regarding the virtual certainty of the ball being in the hazard, is this the sole responsibility of the player?

In my group I was the only one who thought my ball cleared the hazard. The other players thought it didn't. I announced I was playing a provisional and no one questioned me. However if they had said you can't because it is virtually certain your ball is in the hazard, I wouldn't have argued because I wasn't certain either way. Turned out it was in play by a couple of inches.

Thank you again,

Dear Lou,

I understand your opinion that walking back to the tee to hit another shot when your provisional ball is in play seems like a waste of time. I don't want to get involved in a philosophical discussion (you can do that with your friends over a beer at the 19th hole), but I will say that there is a reason for the trek back. A provisional ball is an option available to the player to save time in case his ball is lost or out of bounds. 

If the ball is found, the player must now follow the Rule for whatever condition the found ball presents – if it is unplayable, he must now choose a relief option for an unplayable ball; if it is unplayable in a hazard, he must choose a relief option for a ball in a water hazard. Otherwise, the player has too many choices. For example, suppose you hit an excellent shot with your provisional ball. In this case, you would be happy to continue play with that ball if your original is unplayable. On the other hand, if you hit a poor shot with your provisional, you might want another chance to play a ball under the unplayable or water hazard Rule. Allowing the player to continue play with his provisional ball gives the player too many chances. It is more fair (in my opinion) to have a specific rule to follow for each specific situation.

Regarding virtual certainty, I would suggest that everyone who watched the flight of the ball would have to agree on its location. If one player believes the ball is not in the hazard, there is some doubt.