Spring 2018

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A s the golf industry laments pace of play as one of its biggest hurdles to growing the game, there is one Rule that frequently gets overlooked that was specifically designed to improve the pace of your round. That Rule is 27-2: Provisional Ball. A provisional ball is specifically in the Rules to help players save time, yet we frequently see players hit wayward shots and march off to find them, only to lose precious time walking back to the tee when the original cannot be found or is found out of bounds. Part of the reason lies in confusion about when to abandon the provisional ball or when the provisional may actually be played. A provisional ball may be played any time the player believes the original ball might be lost outside a water hazard or might be out of bounds. So if there is no doubt where the original ball is, or there is no doubt that it has gone into a water hazard, you may not play a provisional ball. Where the confusion lies is when a player has played a provisional ball properly because the original might be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds and then the original is found within the five-minute search period. Now what? The short answer is this – If you've found the original ball, the provisional ball is now a wrong ball and it must be abandoned. There is no option to continue with the provisional if the original has been found. If the original is found in a water hazard, you must proceed under the water hazard Rule. If you choose to proceed under Rule 26-1a by playing under stroke and distance, the provisional ball may not be used for that option. If the original is found unplayable and the player wishes to use the Rule 28a stroke- and-distance option, the provisional may not be used. There are times when you must con- tinue with the provisional ball. For instance, if you find the original ball out of bounds, or if you do not find it within the five- minute search period, the provisional ball becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance. You also have to con- tinue with the provisional ball if you make a stroke at it from a point closer to the hole than where the original ball is likely to be. And finally, there are several rare occa- sions when you have a choice. When you have not found your original ball, but it is either known or virtually certain that the original ball has been 1) moved by an out- side agency, 2) is in an immovable obstruc- tion, or 3) is in an abnormal ground condition, then the player is permitted to take the stroke-and-distance penalty and continue with the provisional ball. In those circumstances, the player could also take relief without penalty under the applicable Rule (18-1, 24-3 or 25-1c). A good piece of advice for players who have played a provisional ball safely to the fairway is to only look for your original ball where you would want to find it. Because once you find the original, you're stuck with it. There is nothing in the Rules of Golf that requires you to search for your ball and your fellow players will appreciate the time you save by playing a provisional and shortening your search. Ryan Farb is the NCGA's Director of Rules and Competitions. In 2017, he earned his second straight perfect 100 score on the PGA/USGA Rules Exam. 76 SPRING 2018 | NCGA.ORG R U L E S O F G O L F You've Played a Provisional Ball – Now What? BY RYAN FARB Check Out the New Online Rules School – Save Strokes Off Your Game Learn the Rules of Golf at your own pace! The NCGA's new Online Rules School is now available with four courses to help you learn the Rules of Golf. The courses use video, infographics and supporting materials to take you through all aspects of the Rules. For more information, please visit AP

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