Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Ball Played Provisionally Under Rule 26-1

Occasionally, I use my weekly blog to try and interpret demanding subject areas of the Rules of Golf that many players find confusing. This blog concerns one of those areas and if you are a casual golfer you might want to skip straight to my next heading (re Patrick Reed), as this somewhat complicated issue is unlikely to be of interest to you. Conversely, if you are a Committee member, Rules official, or just a Rules enthusiast like me, keep reading.

Some Committees may assume that they have the authority to make any Local Rule that will assist their Club or Society members to enjoy their golf, particularly if it helps to speed up play. This is incorrect; Rule 33-1 states;

The Committee may only establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I of the Rules of Golf.
So, for example, a Committee may not assist players who cannot drive their ball over a water hazard, by adopting a Local Rule that allows them to drop a ball, for a penalty of two strokes, in a dropping zone located across the hazard (Decision 33-8/2). This is by way of an introduction to my main point, which concerns the specimen Local Rule in Appendix l, Part B, 1. This permits a ball to be played provisionally, under Rule 26-1, when the original may be in a water hazard of such character that, if it cannot be found it is known or virtually certain that it is in the water hazard, and it would be impracticable to determine whether the ball is in the hazard or to do so would unduly delay play. I want to emphasise that Committees must understand that there are two important restrictions before they may implement this Local Rule (which I will reproduce in full later on) and they are;
The water hazard (including a lateral water hazard) must be of such size and shape and/or located in such a position that:

(i) it would be impracticable to determine whether the ball is in the hazard or to do so would unduly delay play, and

(ii) if the original ball is not found, it is known or virtually certain that it is in the water hazard
These restrictions mean that the Local Rule may only be introduced where it is virtually impossible that a ball could be lost outside the water hazard. This rules out most of the water hazards that I have ever encountered, because there are usually trees, bushes, reeds, fescue, deep rough or marshy areas in the vicinity of the hazard, where a ball could be lost. In the relatively rare cases where this Local Rule may be applicable this is the specimen wording from Appendix l, Part B, 1;
“If there is doubt whether a ball is in or is lost in the water hazard (specify location), the player may play another ball provisionally under any of the applicable options in Rule 26-1.
If the original ball is found outside the water hazard, the player must continue play with it.

If the original ball is found in the water hazard, the player may either play the original ball as it lies or continue with the ball played provisionally under Rule 26-1.

If the original ball is not found or identified within the five-minute search period, the player must continue with the ball played provisionally.
There are three points here that I would like to draw your attention to. Firstly, note the different wording in this specimen Local Rule compared to Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball. It is the use of the phrase "ball played provisionally" (3 times), as opposed to "provisional ball", highlighting that the ball is being played under Rule 26-1, Water Hazards, and not Rule 27-2, Provisional Ball. Secondly, this is a very rare instance in the Rules of Golf (unique?) where the player may have a choice of which ball he wishes to continue to play with; the ball found inside the water hazard or the ball played provisionally. Thirdly, note that if a player is uncertain as to whether their ball has crossed over the water hazard, or has landed in it, they may proceed to where their ball last crossed the margin and drop and play a ball provisionally, under option 26-1b, dropping it outside the hazard, on a line from the hole through where the ball last crossed the margin. In short, the ball played provisionally does not have to be played as nearly as possible from the spot at which the original ball was last played, though that is still an option.

I hope that I have sufficiently emphasised that this Local Rule is not relevant to most courses and certainly cannot be applied to all holes with water hazards, as seems to be the case in the photo above. I strongly recommend that even if a water hazard does meet the two important qualifying conditions for its introduction, Committees should consider very carefully before implementing it, as it is bound to lead to confusion amongst players, especially visitors to the course. For example, a player may think that they can play a ball provisionally when it is obvious that their ball has come to rest in a water hazard. In that situation, the Local Rule is not applicable and if another ball is played that is the ball in play, even if the original is subsequently found to be playable in the hazard.

I started by warning you that this is an obscure and difficult area of the Rules! My principal reason for covering it is to warn Committees against its introduction, unless they are absolutely certain that a water hazard on their course fully meets the restrictive conditions. If those requirements are ignored it is possible that its introduction could invalidate the course rating for handicapping purposes.

I promise to return to a less esoteric subject next week!

The Villain - Patrick Reed

Love him or hate him you have to admit that Patrick Reed, currently ranked No.16 on the Official World Golf Rankings, is an interesting character. Whichever side you are on this article by Shane Ryan is definitely worth reading.

Good golfing,


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.


Anonymous said...

So, is it required to announce to my marker, opponent or fellow-competitor that I am playing a "ball provisionally"?

Barry Rhodes said...


No the provisions of Rule 27-2 do not apply to a ball provisionally played under the Local Rule re Rule 26-1, though it would obviously be sensible to do so, to avoid any confusion.


Jim said...

Hello Barry:
In the example you gave of the committee allowing a player to take a penalty and go to the other side of the hazard, could a drop area be established, as they are on par 3 holes sometimes?

Barry Rhodes said...


No. That is the whole point of Decision 33-8/2. It is not permitted by R&A / USGA.


Anonymous said...

I remember watching Charlie Hoffman of the PGA Tour showing his marker, Jim Furyk his ball; Hoffmann wanted to replace it, presumably because of some blemish and Furyk would not agree that the ball should be declared out of play. Incredibly and petulantly, Hoffman then called for a ruling!

Anonymous said...

My course has a number of water hazards with reeds growing 3 to 5 feet. It's not uncommon to see your ball clip the far side of the reeds - and not know if it went through or fell. Once you walk around, there is well cut fairway and you will either see your ball imediately, or know it's in the hazard.

The rule works out well. (I did see a non-member hit his provisionaly played ball - a Pro V1 - into the hazard and then do so asecond time. He was not happy when he foud his original had cleared the hazard.)