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New Rules for 2019 and the truth about provisional balls!

Hope you all had a great Christmas break.

Did I tell you how I love to confuse shop assistants by asking “Do you have this in extra medium”?

Or when a waiter asks what water I would like, I say “Two parts H, one part O please”! 

Or have you been into your favourite golf store and asked for a dozen provisional balls? Which brings me onto the subject I wanted to talk about this week…

As you should know, the revised rules of Golf come into effect on 1 January 2019. See the excellent video on the subject which you can link to from the top of this post or by clicking here. One of the much discussed changes relates to “balls lost or out of bounds”.

  • Balls Lost or Out of Bounds: Alternative to Stroke and Distance:  A new Local Rule will now be available in January 2019, permitting committees to allow golfers the option to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds (including the nearest fairway area), under a two-stroke penalty. It addresses concerns raised at the club level about the negative impact on pace of play when a player is required to go back under stroke and distance. The Local Rule is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions. (Key change:  this is a new addition to support pace of play)

Firstly, I can confirm that it has been decided NOT to implement this as a local rule at Abridge Golf Club as far as all competitions are concerned. However, in a friendly 4-ball, you could choose to follow this rule if agreed at the start by all players.

Of course this rule change would not be  necessary if golfers used the option to hit a “provisional ball” if they suspect their first ball may be lost or out of bounds. 

Which brings me back to provisional balls. I certainly don’t profess to be a rules expert myself, but it certainly surprises me the number of golfers that don’t follow the correct procedure when playing a provisional ball.

First rule is that when playing a second ball, the golfer must clearly indicate that the ball he/she is about to play is provisional, by saying “this is a provisional ball”. It’s not sufficient to say “[expletive deleted], guess I’d better hit another one” or similar. It’s not up to your playing partners to ask you “Is that a provisional you are about to hit”? If you don’t indicate clearly that you are hitting a provisional, then it becomes your ball in play and your first ball is dead, even if you find it hit a tree and now lies in the middle of the fairway!

Provisional rule basics
If you declare the ball as provisional. If you subsequently find the first ball (and it’s not out of bounds), you HAVE to play the original ball. That’s a nuisance I know, if you have hit your provisional a country mile down the middle of the fairway and your original ball is found in deep doo-doo, but that’s life. Neither can you declare your first ball as “lost”. Although sometimes you might not try too hard to find your first ball in these circumstances, you can’t stop your playing partner/opponent from looking for it! 

If you have omitted to declare the ball as provisional (which you may have done by choice). In this case, your second ball is the ball in play whether you like it or not. If you find your original ball, whether on the fairway or deep rough, you can retrieve it, but continue playing the second ball.

And then finally, there is the American playing golf in Scotland for the first time. After hitting his tee shot off the first out-of-bounds, he asks his local caddie, “Do you have Mulligans in Scotland”?  The caddie replies “Aye, we do sir – but here we call them 3’s”!

Happy and Healthy New Year to you all!

Gary Bronziet
Club Captain

Copies of the revised Rules of Golf Players Edition are available in the club house.
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