Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ask Linda #1728-Competitor lifts player’s provisional

Hi Linda,
In playing a medal competition [stroke play], my ball was hit towards woods and potentially lost, so a provisional was played. My fellow competitor identified my original ball in a bush, after I described the make and the marking. He picked it up and replaced it. The provisional ball was approximately level to where the original lay, so another competitor picked it up, believing the original was found. I did not request him to do so, but by my actions it seemed clear that I had found the original.

I hacked the ball out of the bush, only to find that the ball was not mine. I had assumed my competitor had identified it properly. That was my mistake. The original ball was lost.

My question is: Was I entitled to play the original provisional ball, which my competitor had picked up, asking that he replace it? Or should I have gone back to the tee? We decided that I should incur the two-shot penalty for hitting the wrong ball, and should be allowed to play the replaced provisional, meaning that the next stroke with the provisional was my sixth.

Was this correct?

Thank you
Lou from the UK

Dear Lou,

Yes. Well done.

In stroke play there is no penalty to anyone if a fellow competitor lifts your ball [Rule 18-4]. The ball must be replaced by the player who lifted the ball, you, or your partner [Rule 20-3a]. Since the original lie of the provisional was known, the ball is placed on that spot, not dropped.

The provisional was your ball in play, since the original was not found. The stroke count is:
1 – tee shot
2 & 3 – two-stroke penalty for hitting a wrong ball
4 & 5 – stroke and distance for provisional ball
Your next shot with the provisional ball, as you concluded, is your sixth stroke on the hole.

Don’t be too hard on yourself for failing to identify the ball in the bush. I suspect that most golfers have had the experience of playing a wrong ball that a fellow competitor found and assured the player that the ball was his. Try to make it a habit of always checking a ball before you hit it. Large, distinctive identifying marks on the ball will help keep you from hitting a wrong ball.

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