Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ask Linda #1203 (Ball lost in the middle of the fairway), corrected

Dear readers,

My answer to #1203 was only partially correct. I have received explanations from two very savvy readers. I will reprint the original question, and let these readers advise you. Be forewarned that the answers are very complicated, and will need your full attention.

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

Answer from Lou from England:
Lou played and couldn’t find his first ball A. He played another ball B making ball A lost. As he was not permitted to play a provisional he was deemed to be playing under stroke and distance (27-1a).

He found ball A and “announced to the other players that I had found my first ball, took it off the sprinkler, dropped and finished the hole.” (Presumably ball A).

By lifting and dropping ball A, he was substituting a ball for a ball in play (i.e., ball B). Rule 20-4.
If he had not lifted it, it would have been a wrong ball. If he had not played it, he could have corrected under 20-6. He didn’t, so he gets a 2-stroke penalty when he plays it.

He has now played from a wrong place with no further penalty unless ball B was in trouble or a long way back from A; which may involve a Serious Breach and DQ.

The distinction between a wrong ball and a substituted ball can be a problem.

A couple of notes I have in my file for if the question arises when I am doing Rules Sessions for clubs:

1) When a ball that is not the player’s ball in play or the lifted ball in play is Dropped, Placed, or Replaced with the intention of the ball being “in play,” that ball is a substituted ball and becomes the ball in play.
2) If a ball has been in the player's hand and he puts it into play, it cannot be a wrong ball.

The premise being that he has every opportunity to determine if it is his or not.

Answer from Lou from the UK:
The answer that you have given to the above scenario is incorrect and the decision of the Tournament Director was also incorrect.

I will explain.
Let's call the player's original ball “A” and the second ball from the tee “B.”

You are correct in stating that when the player returned to the tee and played ball B, he was putting a ball into play under 27-1 and lay 3 off the tee in the fairway with this ball (B).
When he lifted his original ball (A) from the sprinkler (which was now lost) and dropped that ball (A) and put it into play he is deemed to be substituting this ball for ball (B) that  is now in play .
(The fact it was his original ball is irrelevant-- it could be any ball from his bag, etc.)
Because he knew the location of ball B (laying in the fairway), when he dropped and played the substituted ball A he was in breach of 15-2 [Substituted Ball] and 20-7 [Playing from Wrong Place] for substituting and playing from a wrong place and the applicable rule is 13-1 [Ball Played as it Lies]. And because there was no significant difference between the position of the two balls, a serious breach/wrong place would not have occurred.

The score for the ball played from the sprinkler was the ball with which the player completed the hole and his score should have been calculated accordingly.

After playing the substituted ball dropped from the sprinkler, the player's score at that point would be:

Original tee shot: 1  
Second tee shot (27-1): 1 plus 1 penalty stroke 
Stroke at incorrectly substituted ball: 1 plus 2 penalty strokes (limited to 2 for wrong place and incorrect substitution)
Score would be 6 at this stage.

Decision18-2/8.5 explains fully!

The important aspect to remember when differentiating between wrong ball and substitution is: "did the player handle the ball and put it into play?"

If the player would have played ball A, without handling in any way, it would have been a wrong ball.

Because he handled the ball, and put it into play by dropping, it becomes a substituted ball.

It is an extremely complicated rule – and the quicker the ruling bodies return to a wrong ball ruling the better. It was brought in to save the player being disqualified but because it is misunderstood the poor old player is often incorrectly disqualified anyway.

I hope this explanation is of assistance.