“I’m Hitting a Utah!”
After seeing your ball head toward the high rough and trees on the left side of the fairway, it is always wise to consider playing a provisional ball. How well do you know the requirements of Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball? Here are a few situations to test your knowledge of this useful Rule.
Situation 1: Thinking my ball might be lost I tell my fellow-competitors, “I better re-load,” or “I’m hitting another one as that could be lost” or “I’m hitting a Utah.” (Yes, as in Provo, Utah). Is the ball I am about to play from the tee a provisional ball?
Situation 2: Thinking my original ball might be lost I play a provisional ball and have the same result with my original ball. I find both balls within a few paces of each other in the rough. Unfortunately I cannot tell my original ball from my provisional as both are the same brand and number and both have my same personal marking. Are both balls considered lost?
Situation 3: I do not hit my provisional ball very well. When I get to the place where it lies on the fairway, about 50 yards short of where my original ball should be in the rough, I play a second stroke with the provisional ball hitting it well beyond the spot where the original ball is likely to be. May I still play my original ball if I find it?
Situation 4: I do not play a provisional ball because I think I will find my original ball in the rough. After searching for two minutes, I declare my original ball lost and start walking back to the spot in the fairway where I last played. Before the five minutes for search has expired and before I can drop and play another ball, fellow competitors find my original ball. Because I have declared the original ball lost, am I prohibited from playing it?
Situation 5: I do not play a provisional ball. After searching for the original ball for a few minutes I return to the tee and play a provisional ball. When my original ball is found within the five minutes allowed for search, may I continue with the original ball?
And now for the ANSWERS!
Answer #1: No. A player must inform his opponent or fellow-competitor that he is playing a provisional ball. If he fails to do so he is putting another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance. In this case he is hitting 3 from the tee unless an opponent or fellow-competitor stops the player and asks if this ball is intended to be a provisional ball. Decision 27/17(c).
Answer #2: The Rules allow the player to select either ball, but whichever one is chosen, it is considered to be the provisional ball. When playing a provisional ball, a Rules-savvy player should announce the difference between his original ball and the provisional ball. Decision 27/11 Situation 5.
Answer #3: Yes. The original ball must be played if it is found. The provisional ball does not become the ball in play until the player has made a stroke with it from a place equal to or nearer the hole than where the original ball is likely to be or if the five minutes allowed for search has expired. Rule 27-2c.
Answer #4: No. The original ball is not lost just because the player declares it lost. If the five minutes allowed for search have not expired before the original ball is found, and the player has not put another ball into play, the original ball is in play. Decision 27/16.
Answer #5: No. The purpose of playing a provisional ball is to save time. A player can only play a provisional ball before he goes forward to search. When the player returned to the spot in the fairway where he last played, dropped and played another ball, that ball was his ball in play. Rule 27-2a.
Save time. Announce and play a provisional ball properly if you believe your original ball might be lost outside a water hazard or might be out of bounds.