Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ask Linda #1232-Ball not found because another player hit it

Dear Linda,
Teeing off on the 18th hole one of my fellow competitors (male) and I both hit our drives over the side of a cliff. As it’s often difficult to find your ball there I hit a provisional ball from the tee. My fellow competitor did not. When I arrived at the spot where both of our balls had last been sighted, my fellow competitor hit a ball back up onto the fairway and proceeded with playing the hole. As I was unable to locate my original ball I played my provisional. My provisional ball was located past the point where the original ball had disappeared.

When we arrived on the green I noticed that my fellow competitor was using my original ball. I pointed this out to the group. What should happen now? Can I go back to where my original ball was hit in error by my fellow competitor (on the side of the cliff) and continue from there? I was told that as I had played my provisional ball past the point of where the original ball was that I had effectively declared my original ball lost. I didn’t think it was fair that I should be disadvantaged due to someone else’s mistake. But I accepted the ruling that by continuing the hole playing my provisional ball my original ball was deemed “lost.” I am very keen to hear your thoughts on this.  By the way, my fellow competitor was disqualified. 
Lulu from Werribee, Australia

Dear Lulu,

The ruling you received was correct. Once you hit your provisional ball from a point nearer the hole than where your original was likely to be, your original was “lost” [Rule 27-2b].

This was a very unfortunate series of events for both players. I cannot emphasize enough that a player should always take care to identify his ball before he hits it, especially in a situation where two balls were hit out of sight into the same area. On your way to the cliff, a useful conversation might have included the following: “Jake, if we find the balls, let’s be sure to identify them before we hit them.” “Good idea, Lulu. Wouldn’t want to get hit with a wrong ball penalty.”

If you had found your fellow competitor’s ball after he hit yours and within five minutes of beginning the search for your own, you could have placed a ball on the spot where he hit yours and continued play with no penalty [Decision 27/6].

The disqualification of your fellow competitor could have been avoided. Since the error was discovered on the green, he should have returned to the cliff area and searched for his ball. If he found it, he could play it, adding a two-stroke penalty to his score for playing a wrong ball [Rule 15-3b]. If he did not find it, he would have to return to the tee, adding a third penalty stroke to his score [Rule 27-1]. Apparently he failed to state that he would correct his error before leaving the green, which resulted in his disqualification [Rule 15-3b].

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