Thursday, July 6, 2017
Ask Linda #1567-Declare ball lost
A, B, and C are playing a game and player C hooks his drive into some bushes and trees. From past experiences he knows that he will have an impossible shot if he even finds the ball. Also the option of taking an unplayable lie would take him further into the trees. He announces that he will play a provisional ball and proceeds to do so. Then as we are leaving the tee he says that he does not want to look for his original ball and asks us not to look for it as well. He says he wants to declare the ball lost and proceeds to his provisional ball to play it. Player A and B are riding in the same cart while player C is by himself in his own cart. Player A says to player B that he wants to go and look for player C's ball. Player C, when he sees player A and B start to look for the ball, says: “What are you two doing? I have declared the ball lost.” Is he within his rights to declare the ball lost when leaving the tee? Your help would be appreciated.
Lou from British Columbia
No. There are five ways a ball is deemed lost [see the Definition of “Lost Ball”], but declaring it lost is not one of them. The player does not have the right to declare his ball lost.
If a player is familiar with the area into which he has hit his ball, and knows that the ball will be unplayable, his best bet is to hit a second ball from the tee and not call it a provisional. When you hit a second ball from the tee without declaring it a provisional, it is a ball played under stroke and distance. This second ball becomes your ball in play and your third shot on the hole; the original is officially lost.
Since the player declared his second tee shot a provisional ball, nothing he says will cause the original to become lost. If the ball is found before he hits the provisional ball from a spot that is closer to the hole than the original, he must abandon the provisional and continue with the original. If the original is unplayable, and he chooses the stroke-and-distance relief option, he must return to the tee to hit another ball.
The other players in his group are under no obligation to honor his request to not search for the ball. In stroke play, they might want to search to protect the field. In match play, the opponent might have a very good reason to search for the ball.
Let’s look at a possible scenario on a Par-3 hole. The player hits his tee shot into the woods. He plays a second ball, declaring it a provisional, and the ball lands three inches from the hole, for an easy four on the hole. If the player’s original ball is found before the player taps the original into the hole, the player will have to abandon the provisional and proceed with the original. He may still score a four with that ball, but the possibility now exists for him to score five or more.
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