Without fail on any given Saturday, sometimes on a Tuesday too, Nick and his fellow Professionals are asked to clarify a Rule. Most of the time we get the Rules of Golf right but now and again we either get it wrong or are not sure we have got it right. We invariably look to Nick for clarification after the round. In this series of posts, Nick explains the correct ruling from one of the more interesting questions he has been asked over the last few weeks. This one concerns
“Confusing Golf Rule #51 – Provisional Ball”
Question: Nick I hooked my tee shot on the 4th hole and couldn\'t see where it landed, no idea if was above ground or not. So I decided to play a provisional ball and declared my intention to my playing partner. He said no you cannot do that Rule 27 says that if if it is known or it is virtually certain that the ball is within the margins of a water hazard (or lateral water hazard) then the player may not play a provisional ball. Was he right ?
Answer: Yes he was right, spot on in fact. The idea behind provisional balls is really to keep pace of play reasonable. If you think you just airmailed a fence, you don’t want to have to go and find it to confirm it is out of bounds, then walk all the way back to where you hit it and drop another one. But there are times to take a provisional and times to not take a provisional, and a golfer needs to know the difference.
If you think your ball may be out of bounds or lost, take a Provisional.
If you think your ball may be in a red or yellow staked hazard, do not take a Provisional.
To take a provisional, you must announce it to your playing partners (just say “Provisional” loud enough for them to hear it), drop the ball as closely as possible to where you last hit it — or re-tee it if it was a drive — and give it a go. An important point…make sure your provisional ball is different in some way from your original ball. It should be a different number, a different logo, a different mark, and be sure to tell your partner what ball you are playing.
Now it’s time to go and search for your first ball. If you find your original ball before hitting your provisional, and it is in bounds, you MUST play your original ball. It’s not a Texas scramble where you get to choose.There are times where you may not want to find the original ball. You put it in a big, wide shrub that is in bounds, for example. If you find it, you may need to take an unplayable penalty or go back to where the original shot was played from.
And finally - a provisonal ball must be played before you go forward to look for your first ball. You cannot go forward 20 yards and then go back and play a provisional ball, if you do that then that ball is the ball in play.