Rule of the Week

“Here is a situation that occurred recently. A player hit his ball toward an area where he thought he may not be able to find it. He followed correct procedure and announced to his group he was going to play a provisional ball to be used in case he could not find his original ball. He played his provisional and it headed off in the identical direction that his original went. Upon reaching the location where he believed his original ball was, he found both his original and his provisional ball within a few feet of each other. There is only one problem – both balls were of the same brand and type and were marked identically to each other. Since he could not determine which ball was the original and which ball was the provisional, what does he do?”

Before I clear up this particular situation let me first point out that in stroke play if two players who are playing identical balls with no identification marks on them find their balls lying close together, but are not able to determine which ball belongs to each player, then both balls are lost,Decision 27/10.

This is logical when you realise that neither player can be sure that they are not going to play a wrong ball, and if you play a wrong ball without correcting the error before making a stroke at the next teeing ground, you are disqualified, Rule 15-3b. However, this ruling would be inequitable in the circumstances detailed above, because it would result in the player having to return to the tee to play their 5th stroke, even though he has found both his original and provisional balls but cannot identify which is which. Accordingly, he must select one of the balls, treat it as his provisional ball and abandon the other. He would then be playing his 4th stroke from where he found both balls.

 Decision 27/11 clarifies this and other similar situations where a player cannot distinguish between their original and provisional balls.

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