Test Your Knowledge – Lost Ball

Lost Ball / Hitting a Provisional

You and your friends are playing a round of golf. One of the players hits his second shot into the woods to the right of the fairway. Although the thicket is dense, he believes he can find it so he does not hit a provisional ball. Unfortunately, when he gets to the spot where the ball entered the woods, it is nowhere to be found. You all spend five minutes (that’s the limit allowed) looking but to no avail. There are people on the tee behind you, waiting for your foursome to continue play. What do you do?

  1. The player who lost his ball in the woods declares the ball lost and he must return to the spot from which he hit his second shot and play a second ball. (One stroke penalty.)
  2. The player declares the first ball lost, drops a ball at the point where his ball entered the woods and continues play. (One stroke penalty.)

The official answer is #1. However, in a friendly game of golf without money on the line and with players waiting on the tee behind, many players will choose #2 just to move the game along. But it is not the official rule. If this were a tournament #1 would have to be enforced.

Lesson to Learn: When in any doubt, always play a provisional ball. If you do find the original ball you must play it and the provisional goes back in your pocket, but if you don’t find the original ball, you’ve saved everyone a lot of time and play continues with the provisional ball becoming your ball in play.

  5 comments for “Test Your Knowledge – Lost Ball

  1. John Ledet
    October 21, 2016 at 9:46 am

    if I hit my second shot into the woods and there are no ‘out of bounds’ and no ‘hazard’ markers
    and I declare the ball to be lost and I drop a ball at the spot from which I hit the second shot into the woods, am I now hitting my third shot (penalty stroke only) or am I hitting my fourth shot (penalty stroke and distance)?
    thanks

  2. Andrew
    January 8, 2016 at 12:35 am

    I was playing golf today and I hit a ball from the fairway directly in the woods. I hit the ball in pretty deeply so I figured it was lost or at the very least it was an unplayable lie wherever it went. I didn’t move from the spot I hit the ball I just dropped another one and hit a beautiful shot which landed on the green. I had some time while the other players were playing so I went in the woods and I found my original ball. Should I have gone back to the original spot and hit the original ball again or can I legally play the second ball with only one stroke penalty.

    • January 8, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      I think you did the right thing, but here is Rule 27 to clarify:
      A ball is lost if it is not found within five minutes after you first begin to search, or if another ball has been put into play, or if a stroke has been played with a provisional ball at or beyond the spot which the original ball is known to be.

      If your ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, you may play it as it lies. If you cannot find it or do not wish to play it, add a penalty stroke and drop and play another ball from where you last played or drop a ball behind the water hazard as far back as you wish. If you decide to drop behind the hazard, drop the ball so that there is a straight line between the hole, where your ball last crossed the hazard margin and where you drop the ball. If your ball is in a lateral water hazard, you may also drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the hazard margin or equidistant on the opposite margin no nearer to the hole.

      A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies beyond the inside line of objects such as white stakes, or a fence or wall that marks the playing area.

      If your ball is lost or out of bounds, you must add a penalty stroke to your score and play another ball from where you played your last shot.

      If you think your ball may be lost or out of bounds, you may play another ball (provisional ball) from the place where your first ball was played. You must tell your opponent or fellow competitor that you are playing a provisional ball and play it before you look for your first ball. If you cannot find your first ball or if it is out of bounds, you must count the strokes with the first and provisional ball, add a penalty stroke and play out the hole with the provisional ball. If you find your first ball in bounds, continue to play with it and pick up the provisional ball.

    • JT
      August 23, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      If you found your original ball before playing your next shot with the provisional ball, then you should have played the original ball. If deep in woods and unplayable, take an unplayable penalty and still play the original, just with unplayable lie penalty. You were not permitted to play the provisional ball if you found your original.

      • August 25, 2016 at 10:14 am

        The key word phrase is “before playing your next shot”… If after five minutes of searching, you have not found your ball, declare the ball lost, then hit a provisional and continue play. If you later find your ball, that’s ok, but that first ball is out of play. If you suspect your first shot is deep into the woods, declare it lost right away and hit a provisional, adding a 1 point penalty to your score. And then DON’T LOOK FOR THE LOST BALL. If you find it within 5 minutes you have to play it… so don’t even bother.

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