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?
This is one of those rules questions that you normally only find in a quiz. It’s like a chess puzzle – fun to think about but never every happens on the course.
But over the years I’ve been writing this column, this one-in-a-million scenario has cropped up in emails and on social media from time to time.
So let’s deliver this situation in rules quiz style…
You’re on a par 3. You can’t see the bottom of the flag and everywhere you look is trouble. Your tee shot looked good but you can’t see where it lands.
You’re concerned. It could be anywhere, so you correctly announce a provisional and play it. Arriving at the green, your original ball is nowhere to be found. You tick off the three minutes you’re allowed to search.
Tragedy. Time’s up. You haven’t found the ball. Gutted, you locate your provisional ball, and play it. After all, you believe it to be the ball in play under penalty of stroke-and-distance.
You putt, hole out, and get to the cup only to see your original ball is also nestled at the bottom of it.
Well rules sleuths, what happens now? Is it a hole-in-one, or a double bogey? What are you writing on your scorecard?
Hole in one rules: Is this an ace?
While you might be thinking it’s a headscratcher, the answer is dead simple. Rule 1.1 says that “each hole starts with a stroke from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green”.
If that doesn’t give you a big enough clue, Rule 6.5, which covers completing the play of a hole, says a player has completed a hole in stroke play when “the player holes out”.
As soon as the 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.
Sometimes people ask me if continuing the hole with the provisional – even though you didn’t know it was completed – counts as practice. It does not.
An addition to Rule 6.5 says if a player isn’t aware the hole is completed, “and attempts to continue play of the hole”, neither is it practice “nor do they get a penalty for playing another ball, including a wrong ball”.
Get your wallet out and prepare for that bar bill. You’re buying the drinks. You’ve hit the perfect shot.
Got a question for our expert?
Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.
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