Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ask Linda #1203-Ball lost in the middle of the fairway

The answer to this question is corrected on December 5.

Hi Linda,
Playing in a golf tournament last week, I hit my drive right down the center of the fairway, about 225 yards. When we got to the spot where the ball should have been, it was nowhere in sight. My playing partners all saw the drive and we all agreed that we were looking in the right place. After a few minutes, I announced that I was going back to the tee and declared I would be hitting a "provisional" ball, not willing to accept that a ball hit in the middle of the fairway could not be found. I hit a second ball as well as the first and in the same area of the fairway. As I approached that ball, I spotted my first ball in a depression caused by a sprinkler. I announced to the other players that I had found my first ball, took it off the sprinkler, dropped and finished the hole. When I was asked to explain what had happened on that hole to the tournament director, he ruled that I was disqualified. He explained that when I left the area where my ball should have been, I had abandoned the search and my second ball now became my official ball. When I found the first ball and played it in, I was hitting the "wrong" ball and, in tournament play, it was a disqualification. I accepted the decision, but was told that it was incorrect. Another golfer insisted that I could hit a "provisional" from the tee under those circumstances and play my first ball without penalty if found before I played the "provisional." What do you say?
Thank you.
Lou from Henderson, Nevada

Dear Lou,

The decision of the tournament director was correct.

When you returned to the tee and hit another ball, that ball became your ball in play under stroke and distance [Rule 27-1a] and your original ball was lost [Definition of “Lost Ball”]. There is no option to hit a provisional ball once you go forward to search for the original ball [Rule 27-2a].

When you found the original ball and hit it, you played a wrong ball [Definition of “Wrong Ball”]. In match play, you lose the hole. In stroke play, the penalty is two strokes and you must complete the hole with the second ball you hit from the tee (your ball “in play”). If the mistake is not corrected before you tee off on the next hole, the penalty is disqualification [Rule 15-3b].

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