What's the proper order for hitting a provisional ball?

Published 05/04/2011 07:20:00

Steve hits his tee shot deep into the woods, where the ball might be lost. He announces that he will play a provisional ball, and plays the provisional before his opponent in match play, Tom, hits his tee shot.

Has Steve proceeded correctly?

No. When a player plays a provisional ball from the tee, he should do so after his opponent in match play -- or fellow competitors in stroke play -- have played their first strokes (Rule 10-3). If he doesn't wait for the others to hit before playing his provisional, he is guilty of playing out of turn.

In stroke play, Steve's mistake is unimportant because there is no penalty for playing out of turn unless it is done to give on replay an advantage (Rule 10-2c). In match play, however, there are potential ramifications. The opponent may require a player who has played out of turn to cancel the stroke and play a ball in the proper order, without penalty (Rule 10-1c). However, the decision must be made immediately. Tom can't wait until after he hits his own tee shot to make the call on requiring Steve to replay.

Now What If?

In stroke play, Steve hits his tee shot too far on a par-three hole and his ball ends up in thick woods. He announces that he will play a provisional ball and says he will play the provisional before his fellow competitor, Tom, hits so that Tom can get a better idea about what club to hit. Tom agrees and watches Steve hit the provisional ball.

Is there a penalty?

Yes, because Steve played out of turn in order to give Tom an advantage. Both players are disqualified. This ruling is made because the players agreed to play in the wrong order so that Tom could see what club Steve hit. If Steve played out of turn only to speed play or because he didn't know the right order, there is no penalty.


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