Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ask Linda #1298-Is the provisional or the original in play?

Hi Linda,
Our group teed off on a hole that has a large hill to the right that is full of thick weeds. One of the golfers hit her tee shot a long distance, but unfortunately up on the hill. She wasn’t certain that she would be able to find it (or it may be out-of-bounds). She announced that she was hitting a Provisional Ball, and hit a ball into the fairway, though it’s not very far out there. Since her provisional ball was a lot farther from the hole than her original ball, she hit it a second time; this ball went near the green. She then went up on the hill, and found her original ball on the hill within 5 minutes, and it was in-bounds. Which ball is in play? 
Thank you,
Lulu from Denver, Colorado

Dear Lulu,

The original ball is in play.

The player is entitled to continue hitting her provisional ball until she reaches the area where her original is likely to be. When she arrives at that area, she may stop and search for her ball. If she finds it within five minutes, and it is not out of bounds, she is required to continue with the original and must abandon the provisional [Rule 27-2b, c].

The player’s provisional ball stopped well short of the area where her original lay. She correctly hit the provisional a second time. Where that second shot ended up (in this case, near the green), is not relevant. What is important, with regard to the Rules, is where she hit it from, which was short of the area where she would begin searching for her original.

The purpose of hitting a provisional ball is to save time. That’s why the player is supposed to keep hitting it until she physically arrives at the search area. If she were to hit the provisional ball from the area where the original is likely to be, or from a point closer to the hole than that area, her provisional would become the official ball in play, and the original, even if subsequently found, would be deemed “lost” [Definition of “Lost Ball”; Rule 27-2b].

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