By Alan Jeffery
QUESTION: Joleen and Nancy are playing in a tournament. On the 10th hole, Joleen strokes her ball about 175 yards from the tee area. The area is dense with vegetation and the ball may be lost. Joleen plays a provisional ball. After briefly searching for her original ball, she goes to her provisional ball which is about 200 yards from the teeing area. She calls her provisional ball unplayable and drops a ball within two club-lengths of where it lay. Before she plays the provisional ball, Nancy finds Jolene’s ball within the five minutes allowed for their initial search. Nancy says Joleen must play the provisional ball because she lifted and dropped the provisional ball. Is Nancy correct?
ANSWER: Because the original ball was found within the five minutes after the search had begun, and Joleen had not played a stroke with the provisional ball, the original ball remained the ball in play. The lifting and dropping of the provisional ball means nothing. Joleen is playing properly. Nancy is incorrect. See USGA Decisions On The Rules of Golf, 27-2 b/6.5.