Stroke-and-Distance Relief, Ball Lost or Out of Bounds, Provisional Ball
Purpose of Rule: Rule 18 covers taking relief under penalty of stroke and distance. When a ball is lost outside a penalty area or comes to rest out of bounds, the required progression of playing from the teeing area to the hole is broken; the player must resume that progression by playing again from where the previous stroke was made.This Rule also covers how and when a provisional ball may be played to save time when the ball in play might have gone out of bounds or be lost outside a penalty area.
Stroke-and-Distance Relief, Ball Lost or Out of Bounds, Provisional Ball
Relief under Penalty of Stroke and Distance Allowed at Any Time
Teed Ball May Be Lifted When Original Ball Is Found Within Three-Minute Search Time
When playing again from the teeing area, a ball that is placed, dropped or teed in the teeing area is not in play until the player makes a stroke at it (definition of in play and Rule 6.2).For example, a player plays from the teeing area, searches briefly for their ball and then goes back and tees another ball. Before the player makes a stroke at the teed ball, and within the three-minute search time, the original ball is found. The player may abandon the teed ball and continue with the original ball without penalty, but is also allowed to proceed under stroke and distance by playing from the teeing area.However, if the player had played from the general area and then dropped another ball to take stroke-and-distance relief, the outcome would be different in that the player must continue with the dropped ball under penalty of stroke and distance. If the player continued with the original ball in this case, they would be playing a wrong ball.
Penalty Cannot Be Avoided by Playing Under Stroke and Distance
If a player lifts their ball when not allowed to do so, the player cannot avoid the one-stroke penalty under Rule 9.4b by then deciding to play under stroke and distance.For example, a player's tee shot comes to rest in a wooded area. The player picks up a ball, believing it is a stray ball, but discovers the ball was the ball in play. The player then decides to play under stroke and distance.The player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b in addition to the stroke and distance penalty under Rule 18.1, since at the time the ball was lifted the player was not allowed to lift the ball and had no intention to play under stroke and distance. The player's next stroke will be their fourth.
Ball Lost or Out of Bounds: Stroke-and-Distance Relief Must Be Taken
Time Permitted for Search When Search Temporarily Interrupted
A player is allowed three minutes to search for their ball before it becomes lost. However, there are situations when the "clock stops" and such time does not count towards the player's three minutes.The following examples illustrate how to account for the time when a search is temporarily interrupted:
In stroke play, a player searches for their ball for one minute and finds a ball. The player assumes that ball is their ball, takes 30 seconds to decide how to make the stroke, choose a club, and plays that ball. The player then discovers that it is a wrong ball. When the player returns to the area where the original ball was likely to be and resumes search, they have two more minutes to search. The time of search stopped when the player found the wrong ball and stopped searching.
A player has been searching for their ball for two minutes when play is suspended by the Committee. The player continues searching. When three minutes has elapsed from when the player began searching, the ball is lost even if the three-minute search time ends while play is suspended.
A player has been searching for their ball for one minute when play is suspended. The player continues to search for one more minute and then stops the search to seek shelter. When the player returns to the course to resume play, the player is allowed one more minute to search for the ball even if play has not been resumed.
A player finds and identifies their ball in high rough after a two-minute search. The player leaves the area to get a club. When they return, the ball cannot be found. The player has one minute to search before the ball becomes lost. The three-minute search time stopped when the ball was first found.
A player is searching for their ball for two minutes, then steps aside to allow the following group to play through. The search time stops when the search is temporarily stopped, and the player is allowed one more minute to search.
A player is searching for their ball, which is believed to be covered by sand in a bunker. The player is unsure what actions they are allowed to take to try to find the ball and so they stop searching after one minute to ask a referee or the Committee for a ruling. After two more minutes, a referee arrives and gives the player a ruling. When the player resumes search, they have two minutes to find the ball.
Caddie Is Not Required to Start Searching for Player’s Ball Before Player
A player may instruct their caddie not to begin searching for their ball.For example, a player hits a long drive into heavy rough and another player hits a short drive into heavy rough. The player's caddie starts walking ahead to the location where the player's ball might be to start searching. Everyone else, including the player, walks towards the location where the other player's ball might be to look for that player's ball.The player may direct their caddie to look for the other player's ball and delay search for their ball until everyone else can assist.
Meaning of “Reasonable Time To Do So” When Identifying Ball
Rule 18.2a(1) provides that a player must promptly attempt to identify a ball that is found when it is believed that the found ball could be the player’s ball. And, when attempting to do so, the player is allowed a reasonable amount of time to identity it.However, so long as the player’s ball is found and identified during the three-minute search time, the player may take as much time within those three minutes to identify it. But when a ball is found close to the end of the three-minute search time, it is reasonable to allow the player up to one minute to identify the ball.For example, a player finds a ball in a tree 2 minutes and 30 seconds after the search began but is not immediately able to identify it as theirs. In this case, it is reasonable to allow the player one minute to try to identify the ball, meaning if the player is able to identify the ball within 3 minutes and 30 seconds after the search began, the ball is not lost. But if the player discovers the ball is not theirs after the three-minute search time has finished, their ball is now lost and the player has no additional time to search.Similarly, when a ball is found close to the end of the three-minute search time but the player is not where the ball is found, Rule 18.2a(1) also allows the player a reasonable time to get to the location where the ball is and, once there, it is reasonable to allow the player up to one minute to identify it. (New)
Ball Moved Out of Bounds by Flow of Water
If a flow of water (either temporary water or water in a penalty area) carries a ball out of bounds, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief (Rule 18.2b). Water is a natural force, not an outside influence, therefore Rule 9.6 does not apply.
When Player May Play Provisional Ball
When a player is deciding whether they are allowed to play a provisional ball, only the information that is known by the player at that time is considered.Examples where a provisional ball may be played include when:
The original ball might be in a penalty area, but it might also be lost outside a penalty area or be out of bounds.
A player believes the original ball came to rest in the general area and it might be lost. If it is later found in a penalty area within the three-minute search time, the player must abandon the provisional ball.
Playing Provisional Ball After Search Has Started Is Allowed
A player may play a provisional ball for a ball that might be lost up until the point when the three-minute search time has ended.For example, if a player is able to return to the spot of their previous stroke and play a provisional ball before the three-minute search time has ended, the player is allowed to do so.If the player plays the provisional ball and the original ball is then found within the three-minute search time, the player must continue play with the original ball.
Each Ball Relates Only to the Previous Ball When It Is Played from That Same Spot
When a player plays multiple balls from the same spot, each ball relates only to the previous ball played.For example, a player plays a provisional ball believing that their tee shot might be lost or out of bounds. The provisional ball is struck in the same direction as the original ball and, without any announcement, they play another ball from the tee. This ball comes to rest in the fairway.If the original ball is not lost or out of bounds, the player must continue play with the original ball without penalty.However, if the original ball is lost or out of bounds, the player must continue play with the third ball played from the tee since it was played without any announcement. Therefore, the third ball was a ball substituted for the provisional ball under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 18.1), regardless of the provisional ball's location. The player has now taken 5 strokes (including penalty strokes) with the third ball played from the tee.
Statements That “Clearly Indicate” That a Provisional Ball Is Being Played
When playing a provisional ball, it is best if the player uses the word "provisional" in their announcement. However, other statements that make it clear that the player's intent is to play a provisional ball are acceptable.Examples of announcements that clearly indicate the player is playing a provisional ball include:
Examples of announcements that do not clearly indicate the player is playing a provisional ball and mean that the player would be putting a ball into play under stroke and distance include:
"I'm going to re-load."
"I'm going to play another."
Actions Taken with Provisional Ball Are a Continuation of Provisional Ball
Taking actions other than a stroke with a provisional ball, such as dropping, placing or substituting another ball nearer to the hole than where the original ball is estimated to be are not "playing" the provisional ball and do not cause that ball to lose its status as a provisional ball.For example, a player's tee shot may be lost 175 yards from the hole, so they play a provisional ball. After briefly searching for the original ball, the player goes forward to play the provisional ball that is in a bush 150 yards from the hole. They decides the provisional ball is unplayable and drop it under Rule 19.2c. Before playing the dropped ball, the player's original ball is found by a spectator within three minutes of when the player started the search.In this case, the original ball remained the ball in play because it was found within three minutes of beginning the search and the player had not made a stroke at the provisional ball from a spot nearer the hole than where the original ball was estimated to be.
Estimated Spot of the Original Ball Is Used to Determine Which Ball Is in Play
Rule 18.3c(2) uses the spot where the player "estimates" their original ball to be when determining whether the provisional ball has been played from nearer the hole than that spot, and whether the original or provisional ball is in play. The estimated spot is not where the original ball ends up being found. Rather, it is the spot the player reasonably thinks or assumes that ball to be.Examples of determining which ball is in play include:
A player, believing that their original ball might be lost or out of bounds, plays a provisional ball that does not come to rest nearer the hole than the estimated spot of the original ball. The player finds a ball and plays it, believing it was the original ball. The player then discovers that the ball that was played was the provisional ball. In this case, the provisional ball was not played from a spot nearer the hole than the estimated spot of the original ball. Therefore, the player may resume searching for the original ball. If the original ball is found within three minutes of starting the search, it remains the ball in play and the player must abandon the provisional ball. If the three-minute search time expires before the original ball is found, the provisional ball is the ball in play.
A player, believing their tee shot might be lost or over a road defined as out of bounds, plays a provisional ball. The player searches for the original ball briefly but does not find it. The player goes forward and plays the provisional ball from a spot nearer the hole than where the original ball was estimated to be. Then the player goes forward and finds the original ball in bounds. The original ball must have bounced down the road and then come back in bounds, because it was found much farther forward than anticipated. In this case, the provisional ball became the ball in play when it was played from a spot nearer the hole than where the original ball was estimated to be. The original ball is no longer in play and must be abandoned.
Opponent or Another Player May Search for Player’s Ball Despite the Player’s Request
Even if a player prefers to continue play of the hole with a provisional ball without searching for the original ball, the opponent or another player in stroke play may search for the player's original ball so long as it does not unreasonably delay play. If the player's original ball is found while it is still in play, the player must abandon the provisional ball (Rule 18.3c(3)).For example, at a par-3 hole, a player's tee shot goes into dense woods, and they play a provisional ball that comes to rest near the hole. Given this outcome, the player does not wish to find the original ball and walks directly towards the provisional ball to continue play with it. The player's opponent or another player in stroke play believes it would be beneficial to them if the original ball was found, so they begin searching for it.If they find the original ball before the player makes another stroke with the provisional ball the player must abandon the provisional ball and continue with the original ball. However, if the player makes another stroke with the provisional ball before the original ball is found, it becomes the ball in play because it was nearer the hole than the estimated spot of the original ball (Rule 18.3c(2)).In match play, if the player's provisional ball is nearer the hole than the opponent's ball, the opponent may cancel the stroke and have the player play in the proper order (Rule 6.4a). However, cancelling the stroke would not change the status of the original ball, which is no longer in play.
When Score with Holed Provisional Ball Becomes the Score for Hole
So long as the original ball has not already been found in bounds, the score with a provisional ball that has been holed becomes the player's score for the hole when the player lifts the ball from the hole since, in this case, lifting the ball from the hole is the same as making a stroke.For example, at a short hole, Player A's tee shot might be lost, so they play a provisional ball that is holed. Player A does not wish to look for the original ball, but Player B, Player A's opponent or another player in stroke play, goes to look for the original ball.If Player B finds Player A's original ball before Player A lifts the provisional ball from the hole, Player A must abandon the provisional ball and continue with the original ball. If Player A lifts the ball from the hole before Player B finds Player A's original ball, Player A's score for the hole is three.
Provisional Ball Lifted by Player Subsequently Becomes the Ball in Play
If a player lifts their provisional ball when not allowed to do so under the Rules, and the provisional ball subsequently becomes the ball in play, the player must add one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b (Penalty for Lifting or Moving Ball) and must replace the ball.For example, in stroke play, believing their tee shot might be lost, the player plays a provisional ball. The player finds a ball that they believe is the original ball, makes a stroke at it, picks up the provisional ball, and then discovers that the ball they played was not the original ball, but a wrong ball. The player resumes search for the original ball but cannot find it within the three-minute search time.Since the provisional ball became the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance, the player is required to replace that ball and gets one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b. The player also gets two penalty strokes for playing a wrong ball (Rule 6.3c). The player's next stroke is their seventh.