Thursday, 28 April 2011

Player Unable to Identify Ball

A rewarding consequence of my weekly blog and 'Rhodes Rules School' series is that I am contacted by many interesting people and golfing organisations from around the world. I have recently become aware of the College of Golf at Keiser University, located in Port St. Lucie, Florida, which offers a 16 months program to achieve an Associate of Science degree in Golf. You will see that I have recently added a link on the Recommended Links on my home page, titled ‘Golf Program’.

This week I received an interesting Rules question from one of the Golf Program Directors at College of Golf;

“Here is a situation that occurred recently. A player hit his ball toward an area where he thought he may not be able to find it. He followed correct procedure and announced to his group he was going to play a provisional ball to be used in case he could not find his original ball. He played his provisional and it headed off in the identical direction that his original went. Upon reaching the location where he believed his original ball was, he found both his original and his provisional ball within a few feet of each other. There is only one problem – both balls were of the same brand and type and were marked identically to each other. Since he could not determine which ball was the original and which ball was the provisional, what does he do?”
Before I clear up this particular situation let me first point out that in stroke play if two players who are playing identical balls with no identification marks on them find their balls lying close together, but are not able to determine which ball belongs to each player, then both balls are lost, Decision 27/10. This is logical when you realise that neither player can be sure that they are not going to play a wrong ball, and if they play a wrong ball without correcting the error before making a stroke at the next teeing ground, they are disqualified, Rule 15-3b. However, this ruling would be inequitable in the circumstances detailed above, because it would result in the player having to return to the tee to play their 5th stroke, even though they found both their original and provisional balls but cannot identify which is which. Accordingly, they must select one of the balls, treat it as their provisional ball and abandon the other. They would then be playing their 4th stroke from where they found both balls. Decision 27/11 clarifies this and other similar situations where a player cannot distinguish between their original and provisional balls.

I cannot finish without making the obvious but fundamental point that every golfer who is serious about his or her game should ensure that every ball they use has a personal identification mark on it. This tip will save you many strokes over the course of a year; not so much from the somewhat rare situations detailed above, but by avoiding two stroke penalties for playing ‘wrong balls’. If you draw easily identifiable marks on your golf balls you will soon reach the stage where you are subconsciously checking for these marks, no matter what the brand or number is on the ball that you are playing.

Good golfing,

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gbgolfer71 said...

I heard a supposedly true event that occurred in the British Isles. Two golfers were playing a par 3 whose hole location was slightly hidden from the tee. Both golfers hit good shots near the pin, but could not see them land.

When they reached the green they found one ball in the cup and one close by. The two golfers were playing the same make, model, and number ball. Both were unmarked!

They both had to declare lost balls and re-tee!

The only good thing about this was that they had a good story to tell for many years.

diane said...

It doesn't hurt to have a ball marked specifically as a provisional, I put "P" in a couple of spots on the ball. I use it only in circumstances that require a provisional.

Edouard said...

I have never thought of what Diane suggested. It is a great idea to use a specially marked provisional ball

JLaF said...

Barry - you need to get a look at Golf Channel's Big Break series. They just botched the rules big time in an "elimination" playoff.
Gave relief w/o penalty on an embedded ball in the face of a bunker. Clearly not a "closely mown area"!!!

Barry Rhodes said...


I did not see the incident but it seems that there was a Local Rule permitting relief for embedded balls through the green This is the explanation from the producers on the Big Break Facebook, which clarifies the ruling,

"During the elimination challenge of Show 8, Carl Whyte played a shot from a bunker and it embedded in the lip of the bunker.
The ball was embedded in the ground (roots) just above the level of the sand. The ball therefore was embedded through the green. We then applied the USGA rule “Embedded Ball through the Green”, Appendix 1, Part B: Specimen Local Rules, Carl was granted relief without penalty and we proceeded under that rule.
Since his (Carl) ball was embedded in the ground, and not in the sand in the bunker, his ball was embedded through the green, not in the bunker."


Simon said...

Barry, would the "choose a ball and play it laying 3" still apply if one was in play and one was out of bounds?
Regards, Simon

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, if the player did not know whether it was their original ball or their provisional ball that was out of bounds, they must assume the former. In which case the ball in play was their provisional ball, lying 3.