Processing your payment, please wait.

Rules of Golf - Complex Ruling

June 15, 2023

Written by:  Darin Green, Senior Director of Rules & Competitions

I was involved in a complicated ruling last week at the U.S. Women’s Open Qualifier played at The Club at Admiral’s Cove in Jupiter. Below is a breakdown of the situation and ruling.

Early in the morning, I received a radio call and was asked to report to the second green for a ruling. When I arrived, I asked the player how I could help. The player then said, “I hit my drive right and then hit a provisional toward the same area. I then hit another provisional ball into the fairway. I walked over to where the first two balls went and I found one of the balls in bounds, but it was in a bush. Also, I didn’t put any markings on the balls, so I couldn’t tell if it was my first drive or the provisional ball. So, I picked that ball up and then played my second provisional from the fairway onto the green. What should I do?”

After some deep thought, I informed the player that she needed to return to the area that she found the ball in the bush and proceed from there. We went back to the area where she picked up the ball in the bush and I told her she needs either to replace the ball in the spot she picked it up, or take unplayable ball relief. She decided to take unplayable ball relief and drop a ball within two club-lengths of that spot no nearer the hole. She then chipped the ball out into the fairway. She played one more shot onto the green and sank the putt.

Why did she need to return to the area where she found a ball in the bush?

Rule 18.3c(2) states then when a provisional ball is played into the same general location as the original ball and the player is unable to identify which ball is which, if only one of the balls is found on the course, that ball is treated as the provisional ball which is now in play. She needed to proceed with the ball in the bush, which was laying three strokes (including one-penalty stroke for stroke and distance). When she picked up the ball, she moved her ball in play, receives a one-stroke penalty, and must replace the ball.

The second provisional in the fairway is not in play since she found the ball in the bush that is assumed to be her first provisional ball. When she played the second provisional ball from the fairway, she played a wrong ball and receives a two-stroke penalty (the stroke at the wrong ball does not count),

What was her score for the hole?

Stroke 1 – Tee shot right near the out of bounds wall. 

Stroke 2 – Stoke and distance penalty. Rule 18.1

Stroke 3 – Stroke at the first provisional ball, which became the ball in play when a ball found in bounds in the location where the original and provisional were presumed to be. Rule 18.3c(2)

Stroke 4 (later cancelled) – One-stroke penalty for picking up her ball in play that was in the bush. Rule 9.4b

Strokes 4 & 5 – Two-stroke penalty for playing a wrong ball (the second provisional ball that was not in play). Rule 6.3c

The one-stroke penalty was cancelled because of a new rule for 2023 regarding multiple penalties. Rule 1.3c(4) explains that when a player breaches multiple rules before between a stroke, or being told of a breach, the player only receives the larger penalty. So, the one-stroke penalty for picking up her ball goes away and she only receives the two-stroke penalty for playing the wrong ball.

Stroke 6 – One-stroke penalty for taking unplayable ball relief. Rule 19,2

Stroke 7 – Chip out onto the fairway

Stroke 8 – Iron shot onto the green

Stroke 9 – Putt into the hole.

There was a lot to unwind in this situation, but in the end, the Rules were applied correctly.