Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ask Linda #1481-Substituted ball confusion

Linda, I am a little confused by the substituted ball rule. Could you explain the following scenario:

Player A and B both teed off in the same location. Player B walked up and played Player A’s ball. Player A found a ball on a cart path 15 feet from where Player B played. Player A picked up the ball (B’s ball) on the cart path under Rule 24-2(b) and dropped within 1 club-length of the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole. A played this ball without realizing this was B’s ball. A and B discover what they have done when they get to the balls. What is the ruling? This is where I think I am confused. I believe that B has played a wrong ball and must go back and correct his mistake and add a two-stroke penalty under 15-3(b). Here is where I go wrong. I have been told under good authority that A has played a wrong ball and must correct his mistake. I believe that he has substituted a ball but played from a wrong place. I also think that when he played B’s ball by mistake that ball was in play and he finishes the hole with B’s ball and adds 2 strokes to his score under Rule 15-2 (there is no serious breach in this case).

Is the person who told me A was playing a wrong ball right!!? Can you explain?

Best regards,
Lou from Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Dear Lou,

Let’s deal with one player at a time.

Player B
Player B played Player A’s ball. This is a wrong ball [Definition of “Wrong Ball”]. In match play, Player B loses the hole. In stroke play, Player B incurs a two-stroke penalty and must correct his mistake. In your narrative, Player B would drop a ball on the cart path, as close as possible to where it originally lay, decide whether to take relief, and continue play of the hole. If Player B does not correct this mistake before he tees off on the next hole, Player B is disqualified [Rule 15-3b].

Player A
When Player A picked up Player B’s ball, he had ample opportunity to identify it as his original ball. When he dropped it, it became a substituted ball and was his ball in play. At the time Player A hit the substituted ball, he did not know the location of his original ball, so the applicable Rule was 27-1 (Lost Ball, stroke and distance), and he should have returned to the tee to hit a ball under stroke and distance. When he returned to the tee, he would be playing his fifth stroke (one stroke, one penalty stroke under Rule 27-1, and two penalty strokes under Rule 20-7c). Since he did not return to the tee, the substituted ball that Player A hit was played from a wrong place (loss of hole in match play under Rule 20-7b; two-stroke penalty in stroke play under Rule 20-7c added to the one-stroke penalty under Rule 27-1). In stroke play, it is very likely that a serious breach has occurred – Player A gained a considerable advantage by playing the substituted ball from a spot that was considerably closer to the hole than the teeing ground. If he does not return to the tee to play another ball before he tees off on the next hole, he is subject to disqualification.

The person who told you “under good authority” that Player A played a wrong ball is incorrect, but please forgive him. This is not an easy ruling. Once the player has the ball in his hand, he has the opportunity to make sure it is his ball, so shame on him if he doesn’t check it; it becomes a substituted ball, and his ball in play, as soon as he drops a ball that is not his original ball. Player A did not play a wrong ball; he played an incorrectly substituted ball from a wrong place. (And if you think this is confusing, you have plenty of company.)

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