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Jeff Krohn

by Q: Question concerning penalties...

Q: We were playing last Sunday and one of our playing partners hit a ball into a area where we have lost many, so he hit a provisional ball that went into the lake. He then hit more balls into the lake and woods until he hit a decent ball. we then went up and fond his original ball. he claims that he should be able to play with no penalty [i.e. second shot] and that all the other balls where provisional balls and therefore did not count. I argue that only the first ball was a provisional ball and that after hitting it into the water and then hitting another ball he made that next ball his live ball in that by hitting again he accepted the water ball and was hitting his penalty and forfeited any right to the first ball.   - Ernie

A: Dear Ernie,
This question is a very good one and can be answered by using rule 27-2 in the 1999 USGA rules book.

A provisional ball can be used only when you feel your ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds. So in this case, the player is correct by wanting to hit a provisional ball. He also must declare his intentions to his fellow competitor which he did. The confusion seems to happen after he hits tee ball after tee ball into the water hazard. As long as the player declares each ball to be a provisional ball he can hit has many as it takes into the water. Rule 27-2b reads "The player may play a provisional ball until he reaches the place where the original ball is likely to be. If he plays a stroke with the provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place, the original ball is deemed to be lost and the provisional ball becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance." It sounds like your fellow player finally hit a ball that was in play and then went to search for his original ball and found it. As long as he didn't hit his provisional ball from a spot that is near the spot where the original ball lay or is nearer the hole then he is hitting his second shot with his original ball.

I hope this answers your question.
- Jeff Krohn, Head Pro, formely @TPC Sugarloaf

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