The Loop

Rules Challenge

September 16, 2007

Robert Irwin of Sonora, California thinks we were sonoring when wrote the Rules Pop Quiz in the October issue. First, the quiz:

Q: You think the ball you just hit is in a water hazard, but you're not sure. Can you play a provisional ball? A: Yes, but if it turns out the ball went into the hazard, the provisional must be abandoned, and you must proceed with your original ball. >

Mr. Irwin isn't buying this. He feels that it reveals a laxness toward our rules column that is unacceptable:

You need to work harder to make sure that information presented in your "Rules" feature is correct. Rule 27-2 is quite clear, as is Decision 27-2a/2, and your October column contradicts them both. This is not the first time that I have found a rules error presented by your magazine, but it will be the last.

Digest Editor Ron Kaspriske replies:

The question and answer on page 64 to which you refer is correct. If you check Decision 26-1/1, you will find "a player may NOT deem his ball lost in a water hazard simply because he thinks the ball may be in the hazard." The question read, "You think the ball you just hit is in a water hazard but YOU'RE NOT SURE. Can you play a provisional ball?" Of course you can. There is not reasonable evidence to support the ball being lost in the hazard. In this case, if you don't find it in the hazard or outside, it should be treated as a lost ball.

Here's the key section of Rule 26-1:

__ Relief for Ball in Water Hazard__ It is a question of fact whether a ball lost after having been struck toward a water hazard is lost inside or outside the hazard. In order to treat the ball as lost in the hazard, there must be reasonable evidence tht the ball lodged in it. In the absence of such evidence, the ball must be treated as a lost ball and Rule 27 applies.

And the section of Rule 27-2:

Provisional Ball/Procedure 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. The player must inform his opponent in match play or his marker or fellow-competitor in stroke play that he intends to play a provisional ball, and he must play it before his or his partner goes foward to search for the original ball.

Interesting debate. And a bit of a trick question. You cannot hit a provisional if you know your ball is in a hazard, in order to, for example, check out the lie in the hazard and if it's bad and you've hit a good provisional, play the provisional. But when you are not sure whether the ball entered the hazard or could be lost outside of it, you may hit a provisional in case you can't find the ball, because in that case, it's lost outside the hazard, since you can't be reasonably sure the original ball went into the hazard. You must declare that your provisional is a provisional before you hit. And should you find the original ball in the hazard, the provisional is no longer available to you.

--Bob Carney