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.
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