You've finished up with a provisional only to get to the hole and find your original ball in it. Rare, but it happens. So what do you put on your scorecard? Steve Carroll explains

When this poser popped into my inbox, I initially dismissed it as one of those one-in-a-million rules scenarios that, although really cool and quirky, probably doesn’t happen enough to keep you all interested.

Then, as if fate intervened, I received a separate email which outlined almost exactly the same scenario. Déjà vu? Or a sign? I’m going to go with the latter and fill you in on it.

This is the situation. It’s a par 3 where you can’t see the much of the flag and there’s trouble in all directions. You hit a tee shot but don’t see where it lands.

Worried about its location, you announce and play a provisional. You get to the green, spend three minutes looking for the first ball but can’t find it.

Disappointed, you move on and play the provisional, which is on the green, and you now believe to be the ball in play under penalty of stroke-and-distance.

Holing out after two putts, you get to the cup only to see your original ball also nestled at the bottom.

So what now? Is it a hole-in-one, or a double bogey? In both cases, the players who contacted me opted to write the latter on their scorecard. But were they right?

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says…

This one sounds complicated but the answer is revealed right at the front of the rule book. In Rule 1.1, no less.

In fact, it’s clear if you just stop for a second and think about what the game is really all about – what its purpose is.

Let’s give you the R&A and USGA definition. “Each hole starts with a stroke from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green.”

Got it? That’s right. As soon as your original ball went in the hole, it was over. Everything else, the provisional, the searching, the putts, didn’t count. The hole was completed the moment the ball was at rest in the hole after your stroke.

So get your wallet out, you’re buying everyone a drink. You’ve hit the perfect shot.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. My mailbag has been very busy in recent weeks!

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

Subscribe to NCG