Can I Hit a Provisional Ball?
“That might be in the water hazard, can I hit a provisional ball?”
This is another perilous trap that catches too many golfers. In the situation where a player’s tee shot might be in a water hazard, but clearly it is not lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, the player is NOT allowed to play a provisional ball. The one exception being when there is a Local Rule in effect to permit doing so (very rare and only at the option of the Committee; not the player).
If a player does play a provisional ball in the above situation, it is not a provisional ball; rather it becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance.
A provisional ball is covered in the Rules of Golf under Rule 27. The second section of that Rule tells us that “If a ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally in accordance with Rule 27-1.”
In other words, instead of going forward and searching for five minutes for your ball and then having to walk all the way back to where you last played if you don’t find it, the Rules will allow you to save time by playing another ball provisionally; just in case the first one is not found or is out of bounds. That way the provisional ball can become the ball in play and save you the time of walking back and forth.
As with other Rules that allow you to do something out of the ordinary, the Rules of Golf impose a specific procedure that a player must follow to use this Rule (27-2a). Too many players fail to properly inform their opponent, marker or fellow competitor their intention to play a ball provisionally as specified in this procedure. Also, many players do not realize that you may only play a provisional ball for a ball that may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds.
Make note that a provisional ball is meant to save time and not to trap players into penalties. Take a moment and read through the provisional ball Rule to help save time and improve pace of play on the course and contribute to a more enjoyable round of golf for everyone.
Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.