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When in Doubt,

Play a Provisional Ball


Richard Tod

Last summer my brother and

I were playing a quick nine.

One of his approach shots

hit a cart path, took a huge

bounce, and landed in a sand

trap (officially called ‘hazard’,

see USGA Rules ‘definitions’).

As he entered the bunker and

was set to play his recovery

shot, he realized

his ball was


My dear brother requested

a new ball to replace his

scratched one. I calmly



of the

Rules of Golf clearly does not

permit a substitution in this

case. A ball must be visibly

cut, cracked, or out of shape

to be considered unfit for play.

A ball with scratches, mud,

discolored, or other materials

adhering to it is considered

playable under the rules of golf.

In true brotherly fashion, he

argued and stated I was wrong.

He continued to protest that he

was permitted to declare his

ball damaged and replace it.

Seeing he wasn’t going to give

in to logic or fact, I presented

him with a legal alternative.

First, alert your competitor

of your intention to play two

balls (a Provisional) and which

interpretation of the rule you

select. Next, play the ball

as it lies, the scratched

one. Then, hit a

second ball from

the same lie. Hole

them both out

and record both

scores. Be sure

to note, which

score matches the

rule being used for

each ball.When you return

to the clubhouse, ask the rules

committee for clarification and

count the score that correlates

to that ball played.

NWO Golf Links