When Can You Hit a Provisional Ball?

I see many players hit a provisional ball when they shouldn’t.  Here’s the low-down.

Are There Times You Can’t Hit a Provisional Ball?

Yes, there are times you can’t hit a provisional ball.  When it is known or virtually certain that your ball is in a water hazard, you can’t hit a provisional. You would instead walk or drive up to your ball and proceed under the water hazard options. 

Keep in mind that you always have the option to take an unplayable lie 28a, for a stroke and distance one stroke penalty, which means going back to the spot of your last shot, and taking a drop and re-hitting from there. Here’s more about the unplayable lie rule. 


Watch this highlight video from an on-course rules experience I taught:




Mark Your Provisional Ball Uniquely

This is one most players forget, but think about it for a moment. You must mark your provisional ball uniquely because if you have two identical balls (Callaway 3 with a blue dot on it) and your provisional ball lands near your original ball, how would you determine which one was the provisional?

When one ball is in a better lie than the other, or one gives you a better stance, you might want to just take the better one and claim that was your original ball, but you have no proof that it was.


TIP: Have a uniquely marked provisional ball in the cart ready to hit at all times. 

EVEN BETTER TIP: Announce to the other players how this provisional ball is uniquely marked. 


The Nitty Gritty From USGA’s Website:

27-2 Provisional Ball


if a ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally in accordance with Rule 27-1. The player must:

(i) announce to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play that he intends to play a provisional ball; and

(ii) play the provisional ball before he or his partner goes forward to search for the original ball.

If a player fails to meet the above requirements prior to playing another ball, that ball is not a provisional ball and becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1); the original ball is lost.

Click here for the entire text on this rule.

Also check out my videos on:  What to do when you have an unplayable Lie


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