Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ask Linda #1014-Provisional for ball not found in hazard

Hi Linda,
My drive went towards a lateral hazard from the tee (a semi-dry ditch/streambed). All 3 players agreed it was almost certainly in the hazard. On walking up we could not identify the ball but agreed where we felt it entered and I took a 1-shot penalty drop within 2 club-lengths of the apparent entry point. This, I believe, was now my ball in play. After playing the ball and walking forward 20 yards I then actually saw my original ball in the hazard. Had I actually found it earlier I would have gained 20 yards for my shot. Later on, when describing this situation, it was suggested to me that, although we all agreed the ball entered the hazard, I COULD have chosen to play a provisional FROM THE POINT WHERE WE ALLEGED THE BALL ENTERED THE HAZARD but continue to search for it for a full 5 minutes. I suggested that this is not possible and the only option for a provisional ball would have been to have played one from the tee at the time of tee off or to return to the tee as the ball was not identified, on the basis that I MIGHT find the ball, either in the hazard and playable or out of the hazard. It seems logical to me that as soon as there is agreement that the ball has entered the hazard there is no option to play a provisional ball from that point. But I had 3 insistent ladies trying to persuade me otherwise.
I look forward to your response with interest.
Lou from Wales

Dear Lou,

Dear me! What is there about provisional balls that golfers have so much trouble understanding? The Rule, from my perspective, is straightforward and clear. Perhaps it’s time for everyone to pause and read the Rule.

Your understanding of the Rule is correct, Lou; the three insistent ladies are wrong. You have the option to hit a provisional ball for a ball that may be lost outside a water hazard. The provisional ball is hit from the spot where your original was last played, and you must hit it before you go forward to search for your ball [Rule 27-2a]. (There was a small change to this Rule at the two-year revision, allowing players to return to hit a provisional after they have walked forward approximately 50 yards.)

You may not search for your ball and subsequently return to where you hit your last ball to hit a provisional, and you most certainly may not hit a provisional from the area where you are searching for your ball.

If there is knowledge or virtual certainty that the ball is in the hazard, you may not even hit a provisional ball. The ball you drop and play under the water hazard rule is your ball in play, period. According to your narrative, where you dropped your ball was agreed to by all parties, and it was your best estimate as to where your ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. The Rules understand that your best guess may occasionally turn out to be incorrect; they nevertheless respect that you are doing your best to be accurate about where to drop.

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