By John Reis
I know it’s rare in college golf for players to hit a shot that may go awry, but when that happens there are specific actions the player must make to protect himself. If a ball may be out of bounds or lost outside a water hazard, the player is entitled to hit a “Provisional Ball”. We encourage this practice, as should the ball, in fact, be lost he will have to proceed under stroke and distance, which requires him to play a ball from where he last made a stroke. The rationale for hitting a provisional is to save time. It saves no time if he goes forward to search and then decides to return to the previous spot to play the provisional. So it’s incumbent on the player to hit his provisional BEFORE he goes forward to search. We do allow him to go forward to retrieve another ball or different club from his golf bag. That in and of itself is not “going forward to search”. So when he opts to hit a provisional before search, he is obligated to announce what the status of this new ball is. He MUST announce that it is a provisional. Should he fail to do so by saying something like a)I’m going to reload, b)that’s a goner c)I’ll hit another, or d) if he says nothing, the ball then becomes the ball in play and his original is deemed to be lost.
But what happens if he hits a ball into bad country, goes forward to search and after a 2 minute search he decides to return to the previous spot to hit a provisional? He returns, announces and plays what he considers to be a provisional. Is it a provisional or now the ball in play? And what happens if he hits this ball, and before the allotted five minutes allowed for search for his original ball expires, his original is found. Should he play his provisional or his original? What must he do?
Decision (27-2a/1.5) explicitly says he is not permitted to return to hit a provisional after going forward to search. So when he does, that becomes the ball in play and his original is deemed lost. Should he then decide to lift his provisional and play out his original which was found within five minutes, he has played a wrong ball, and he must correct that error before teeing off the next hole or he will be disqualified.
So be sure to announce that your intent is to hit a provisional, and do it in a timely manner. Once you go forward to search, you’ve given up your right to hit a provisional.
Have a great Fall Season,
Greater Cincinnati Golf Association