fbpx
ball moves during search

Can I be forced to play a provisional ball?

Hit your tee shot off the planet? What if you just want to put another ball into play? Our expert takes you through the stroke-and-distance rule

 

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 ball, 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.

provisional ball

Provisional ball rules: 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 ball 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.

Are you fully up to speed with the provisional ball rule? Ask any questions by getting in touch with me on twitter.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

Latest Posts

2023 Rules of Golf changes replacing golf ball on spot

Rules of Golf

England Golf extend period for preferred lies

By

Read full article about England Golf extend period for preferred lies
rules beginner

Rules of Golf

What are the key rules beginner golfers should know?

By

Read full article about What are the key rules beginner golfers should know?
Want to play the same game as the pros? That means playing the same Rules!

Rules of Golf

Want to play the same game as the pros? That means playing the same Rules!

By

Read full article about Want to play the same game as the pros? That means playing the same Rules!
gary woodland

Rules of Golf

Can you look into a player’s bag to see what club they’re using?

By

Read full article about Can you look into a player’s bag to see what club they’re using?
winter rules

Rules of Golf

5 Winter Rules Golfers Break!

By

Read full article about 5 Winter Rules Golfers Break!
golf divot

Rules of Golf

My ball has landed on a divot – can I move it?

By

Read full article about My ball has landed on a divot – can I move it?
animal scrapings

Rules of Golf

Do I get free relief from animal scrapings?

By

Read full article about Do I get free relief from animal scrapings?
rule changes

Rules of Golf

5 Rule Changes You Need To Know!

By

Read full article about 5 Rule Changes You Need To Know!
Golf club committee

Rules of Golf

The prizes were handed out but the committee got my score wrong – should the results be changed?

By

Read full article about The prizes were handed out but the committee got my score wrong – should the results be changed?