What do you do when you hit a provisional but forget which ball is which?
The rules of golf are tricky! Fortunately, we have the guru. Our rules guy knows the book inside and out. you have a question? He has all the answers.
On a recent round, my fellow competitor hooked his tee shot to the left OB. He announced he hit a provisional, pulled a ball out of his pocket, and did it on the same line. As we were coming off the tee together, I asked him if he knew which ball was which. He shrugged and said no. Sure enough, one ball was OB and the other, which had to bounce off a tree, was in the fairway. He offered to declare his first ball OB and play his second. I replied that both balls are considered lost, as he could not tell which was which. Who is right?
—Brett Coleman, Antananarivo, Madagascar
Your fellow competitor, though excessively jaded about scoring his balls, seems like a good guy – and his generous offer is also how the rules view the situation.
Although you are not mistaken that your ball would be lost if you cannot tell the difference between your own ball and a random ball, when the two balls you are deciding between are your original and provisional ball, the Rule 18.3c(2) rules in this case that the ball found through the green is treated as your provisional ball.
For more interim ball tips from our guru, read on…
On a par-4, my friend made a drive in the trees. He overshot his provisional on the fairway but managed to hit his next shot to the front of the green. Searching for my own wayward training, I found his original ball. Sure enough, his second shot with that ball hits his provisional on the fly and ricochets within a foot of the hole for a birdie tap…I think. Does his provisional ball count as an outside feature and is it treated as rubbing the green, or would it be considered part of his equipment and therefore liable to a penalty?
—Sean Harvey, via email
As famous Scottish golf rules expert Rod Stewart once said, “Some guys have all the luck/Some guys have all the pain/Some guys have all the breaks/Some guys just complain…” What guy is your boyfriend? The lucky one (which, if it were a match play, makes you the one who suffers).
Since the provisional was no longer in play, Rule 19-5 does not apply. In equity and by analogy to Rule 19-5a (see Decision 19-5/5 if you have a minute to kill), there is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies. So it’s a strange bird, but a bird all the same.
Need help clearing the greens on your home course? Get a personalized green book from Golf Logix, an affiliate of 8 AM Golf.
Do you have a question about the rules? Ask the guy for the rules! Send your questions, confusions and comments to [email protected] We promise he won’t throw the book at you.
Subscribe to the magazine