Sussex County Ladies' Golf Association Ltd

Rule of the Month (February) - Provisional Ball Part 1

FEBRUARY: Rule of the Month - Provisional Ball

The SCLGA are pleased to present the next Rule of the Month and is one which was suggested through our social media. We are presenting this in two digestible parts as there can be lots of confusion and scenarios with the playing of a provisional ball.

Part 1
Ann, Chris, Jo and Kathy are playing a round of stroke play golf but not having much success and need help to deal with some tricky situations.

  1. Ann hits her tee shot into a wooded area, thinking she may not find it she hits another ball and after she has made the stroke she says to Chris, who was standing next to her at the time, “That 2nd ball was a provisional ball”. 

    Which of the 2 balls is in play?
    a. The first ball
    b. The second ball

  2. Jo mishits her tee shot and she sees her ball heading towards a pond. She doesn’t see her ball land or come to rest but by the length of the shot and its direction she thinks it is likely to be in the penalty area. Should she play a provisional ball?

    a. Yes
    b.  No


  1. Answer - B.
    The 2nd ball is the ball in play. According to Rule 18.3 Ann was required to make the announcement of a provisional ball before she made the stroke. The 1st ball must be abandoned and the ‘provisional’ ball is actually the ball in play. If Chris hadn’t been standing nearby at the time Ann must inform someone of her actions as soon as possible.
  2. Answer - B, No
    This is a tricky area because in making a decision, only the information known to the player at the time is considered. Clarification18.3a/1
    So in this scenario,  Jo believes it is most likely (95% certain) that the ball will be in the penalty area due to the direction and length of the shot so a provisional ball is not allowed as Rule 18 does not apply.

    It is worth bearing in mind that if the ball is not found and Jo is 95% certain that the ball is in the penalty area as there is no other place it could be, she may take relief under section 17 and the next stroke will be number 3. If she had played a provisional ball it must be abandoned

    On the other hand if she does not know or is not virtually certain that the ball came to rest in the penalty area, she must take stroke & distance. If she had played a provisional ball that becomes the ball in play so the next stroke will be number 4.



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