Sometimes no introduction is required, you just let the email do the work. “My husband is adamant that if you hit a really off-line tee shot into a large area of bushes, or brambles, and so on that you must call a provisional ball, play a provisional, and look for the ball for three minutes,” this correspondent told me.
“We say, you can say, ‘I’m taking three off the tee’. That will then be the ball in play even if, when walking on, the first ball is found! That ball cannot be played. Help please.”
I’ve shielded our correspondent’s name here, lest I inadvertently cause an argument, but I am happy to weigh in on this marital issue – to further Rules knowledge only, of course.
Rules of Golf explained: Penalty under stroke-and-distance allowed at any time
I’m sure some of you are asking why I’m tackling this given, at first sight, the answer is very straight forward.
The reality is I get a lot of emails about it, and it also sometimes arises when players try and work out what to do when they’ve erroneously declared a ball lost. Once again, you can’t do that.
Let’s clear it up once and for all. You don’t HAVE to announce a provisional and you can’t be made to either. You can, of course, but you can also take stroke-and-distance relief at any time. Rule 18.1 reveals this very clearly.
You can always play from where the previous stroke was made, adding one penalty stroke to your score, no matter where your ball is on the course.
It can be nestled in some bushes, or it can be in prime position in the fairway, you’ve still got the option of stroke-and-distance relief.
That is the case “even when a Rule requires the player to take relief in a certain way or to play a ball from a certain place.”
Once you’ve done that, your original ball is no longer in play. You can’t carry on with it, even if you then find it on the course before the three-minute search time is expired.
As far as you’re concerned, it’s dead to you. Consign your memory of it to history. It must not be played. If you decide to play it, you’re playing a wrong ball and you could face being hit with some mammoth penalties.
Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?
Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s Level 3 rules exam with distinction, I’ll try to help by featuring the best in this column.
You can read all of Steve’s Rules of Golf explained columns here.
Are you fully up to speed with the provisional ball rule? Ask any questions by getting in touch with me on twitter.
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