By bkuehn1952 on 4/9/12
The man needs no introduction by now, but at oob we believe those who deserve to be recognized should be recognized. Therefore, it's is my greatest pleasure to share with you Brian "bkuehn1952" Kuehn's latest submission. And in case you missed any of his 31 previous posts, I've linked them out here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Enjoy!

Sometimes despite our best efforts, we hit an errant shot. Losing a golf ball is unpleasant but there are ways the Rules of Golf can assist us.

First, hit a provisional whenever the location of your ball may be in doubt. It should not unduly delay play unless you have a very protracted pre-shot routine. If you find you are hitting more than a couple provisionals a round, you might want to consider playing an easier course or putting in more practice time.

In tournament play, hit a provisional whenever there is a chance a shot could be hard to find. First, at all costs, one wants to avoid making the walk (or drive) back to the tee or spot from where one last hit. That is a humiliating disaster. Second, a provisional is a good way to obtain a bit of legal practice during a round. If you hit a squirrely slice or duck hook into the edge of the woods or long vegetation, having the chance to re-hit the shot provisionally can help to settle things down.

By all means, make sure you declare your intention to hit a provisional (except in one instance we will cover later). One of the most common errors I encounter in amateur tournaments is the failure by a player to declare, “I am hitting a provisional.” Typically they say something like, “F—K! That baby’s gone. I guess I will have to reload.” According to the USGA, “reload” is not considered a synonym for provisional. The USGA Decisions state:
The following are examples of statements that do not satisfy the requirement of announcing a provisional ball:

(a) "That might be lost. I am going to re-load."
(b) "That might be out of here."
(c) "I'd better hit another one."
(d) "I will never find that one. I'll play another”
Failure to advise one’s playing partners of your decision to hit a provisional effectively eliminates the ability to play your first ball if it is found in bounds. The second ball you hit immediately becomes the ball in play.

Walking and getting paired up with one or more cart riders can be a plus. Often the cart guys will zoom up to the spot where your ball disappeared and start looking. This effectively extends the time you have to look for the ball since the 5 minutes does not start until you and/or your caddy arrive at the spot. So if someone is looking for your ball, take your time.

When would you ever choose to not declare your second effort a provisional? An example might best explain the situation.

During a stroke play tournament, Player A hit an errant shot that appeared to go deep into the bordering woods. He played a provisional in the fairway and as he walked forward Player A commented that he may not want to find his first one since it could be 100 feet into dense woods. He did not want to be forced to hack it out in 4-5 strokes like Kevin Na. Unfortunately for Player A, Player B had a good eye and walked deep into the woods where he found Player A’s ball lying against a tree. In this instance, if Player A knew there was little chance he would find his ball in a playable position, he could have not declared his second effort a provisional. This would prevent the chance of someone finding the ball in an impossible spot. If he hit his second tee shot without declaring it a provisional, the first ball was no longer in play. Once you find your first ball in bounds, your provisional must be abandoned, no matter how bad the first ball’s situation.

I believe Phil Mickelson once ran into trouble in this vein. Phil’s first shot was somewhere in dense vegetation. He was getting ready to play his provisional from the fairway, not really wanting to find his first. An over exuberant fan located Phil’s first ball deep in the trouble. At that point Phil had no choice but to play the ball or take a stroke & distance penalty for an unplayable lie and return to the tee to try to hit the fairway again.

One final tip on hitting a provisional is to make sure you identify which ball you hit first and what ball is the provisional. You have to be able to identify your ball and distinguish which shot was the provisional versus the original. If you can’t tell which is which, and one ball is in a hazard or O.B., the other ball in play is always considered the provisional.

Anyone else have some tips for us? Did I miss anything? Anything to add @Rulesman? Let’s hear from you!

This was written by Brian Kuehn, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

Flickr, One Tree Hill Studios

[ comments ]
sigmapete1 says:
Here's an interesting nuance to the rule...if you hit a provisional, then find your ball but elect to declare it unplayable and also elect to replay from the last shot (which is of course your option) then you CAN'T use the provisional you just hit. You have to go back and re-hit the last shot after the 1 stroke penalty from the unplayable. In terms of penalty, electing to re-hit is the same as a lost ball, but the reason you can't use your provisional for an unplayable is because you then are essentially able to choose from the better of two shots that have already been played (since you know where your provisional ended up already). The rule forces you to choose between the bad lie, club length relief no nearer the hole, or the replay of the last shot which is an unknown.

If you are playing your local muni though, don't expect the guys behind you, the marshals or just about anyone else to know this!!
legitimatebeef says:
Great post Brian, thanks for reminding us about the rules and that OB's, lost balls and provisionals are an essential part of the game. Even though you are probably preaching to the choir. But just because you hit a bad tee shot doesn't mean its now time to cheat or give yourself a break. Hit the provisional. Yes, it is not the easiest procedure but if you want to play correctly you must deal with it like a grownup. How someone deals with the situation says a lot about their game IMO.

In my experience people have a very hard time with this rule. Funny how when they hit one OB all of a sudden its "I don't want to hold up the group behind, I'll just drop one over there", all of sudden slow play is a big concern. Frankly its just too much for the majority to handle. Let them do whatever they want is what I say. The golf rules are always there if someone wants to follow them.
bkuehn1952 says:
@jaaanson: If you do not state you are hitting a provisional, your first ball is out of play. If someone finds your first ball, put it in your bag. The ball was "lost" as soon as you re-hit without stating it was a provisional.

If you hit a provisional and do not want to find your first attempt, you do not have to look for it. However, anyone else can look for it and if they find it before you hit your provisional a 2nd time, you must abandon the provisional and proceed with your first ball. One can not declare a ball "lost".
aaronw409 says:
Also, if you think your first ball may be lost in a hazard, you can't play a provisional.
dukedsp says:
@bkuehn1952: The defining characteristic of when your provisional becomes the ball in play is not hitting it the 2nd time. It is hitting it from a spot closer to the hole than where the original is thought to be lost (or your time expires for searching).

example: You believe your ball lost 150 yards from the tee. You duff a provisional 50 yards off the tee. You hit the provisional again to a spot 200 yards off the tee. The second ball is still a provisional at this point. It is not until you hit it from a spot past the point the ball is thought to have been lost that it becomes the ball in play.
DaRupp13 says:
This article is such a great point. Something, I will admit, of which I am guilty. I pledge this summer to hit provisional tee shot, declaring them provisional of course, after I spray a shot off the tee. No more, "I'll just drop it up there." This is the last remaining dishonest club in my bag. Thank you for the inspiration Brian.

I'm sure the inspiration is going to hit me pretty hard as I'm really struggling off the you can see from my latest score - 2 fairways hit on a wide open course. Any other course, it would have been about 8 unplayable penalties.
bkuehn1952 says:
@dukedsp: Yes, thanks for the comment. For simplicity's sake I use the "hitting the provisional" but the rule does require one to hit the provisional from a spot closer to the hole. You are correct.
legitimatebeef says:
Good on you DaRupp. The OB-drop is probably one of the biggest cheats in the game. Not saying that to scold anybody just saying it really distorts the score. That said the OB situation is also one of the hardest tactical situations in the game. You just made a poor swing and launched one off the course. Now what? Same shot, same potential to lose it only now you're hitting your third. Talk about a bad feeling, what to do? Play the same club or chicken out and hit a shorter one?

Also Brian makes a very fine point about using the provisional as practice. That is the kind of uncommon wisdom you don't hear all the time.
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