Friday, June 23, 2017

Ask Linda #1559-Who is cheating?

A member of our group sometimes calls: “I'll take a provisional” under these circumstances:

He hits his ball and it may not or may not have ended up beyond the white stakes. (Our group tends to play lateral drops with a penalty stroke rather than stroke and distance, so the group heads out to try and locate his ball and determine if indeed it was out of bounds or not.)

After searching for his ball for a couple of minutes, he will take a lateral drop and put another ball in play, calling it a provisional. He tells the rest of us we can abandon the search and go and play our next shot. He then resumes the search for his original ball. If we or he then locates his original ball, he will then abandon his provisional ball and play the original ball without a penalty. If we do not find it, he will play the provisional ball and take a penalty stroke and play the provisional.

I do believe he is thinking that the word “provisional'” means: "Providing that we might not find my original ball I will speed up play by telling the other guys to go and hit their balls while I continue to search for mine. If I do find my ball I will then play it and if not I already have another ball in play."

He is a good-natured guy and I am absolutely sure that he would never intentionally cheat, but I’m not sure how to explain to him how we should be handling the situation. I know he doesn't want us to use more time looking for his ball, but he probably should not be calling a provisional.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.
Lou from Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Lou,

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, Lou. If everyone in your group drops a ball near where the original went out of bounds or was lost, instead of returning to the spot where you played your previous stroke, none of you are playing under the Rules of Golf. In essence, you are all “cheating,” so you should be a little more patient with the good-natured guy who doesn’t understand how and when to play a provisional ball.

After a player hits a ball, if it may be out of bounds or lost outside a water hazard, the player may hit a provisional ball. This provisional ball must be announced and hit before the player goes forward to search [Rule 27-2a]. If all of you would hit a provisional when the situation warrants it, you would all be playing under the Rules of Golf and you would all save time, since you would have another ball in play if your original is lost or out of bounds.

So let’s try to understand provisional balls. When your good-natured friend drops and plays a ball in the area where his original is lost or out of bounds, that ball is now in play. It is not a provisional ball, which must be announced and hit from the same place the original was hit, before going forward to begin search. He has substituted a ball when he was not permitted to do so [Rule 15-2], and has played from a wrong place [Rule 20-7]. In match play, he loses the hole; in stroke play, he incurs a two-stroke penalty. In addition, in stroke play only, since he has committed a serious breach (by playing from a spot that is much closer to the hole), he would have to return to where he hit the shot that went OB or was lost and hit a second ball. This must be done before teeing off on the next hole; otherwise, he is disqualified. And if he abandons the wrongly labeled “provisional” ball to play his original, there is another set of problems and penalties to deal with, which I will not go into at this time.

You should gather from all of this information that no time is saved by dropping and playing an incorrectly labeled “provisional ball” from a wrong place. In addition, the penalty for bending the Rules is much more serious than the stroke-and-distance penalty for a properly played provisional ball. The option of hitting a provisional ball is in the Rules to help the player save time. You should all start doing it right.

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