- Exceptions: If a player is certain his ball can’t be found because it was either moved by an outside agency (e.g., someone picked it up), or came to rest in an obstruction, an abnormal ground condition or a water hazard, he proceeds under whichever rule applies to the situation.
- Penalties for violating Rule 27-1: Match play – loss of hole. Stroke play – two strokes.
- Example: Leonard slices his tee shot toward the right-hand boundary on the fourth hole. He’s not sure if it stayed in or went out of bounds, so he re-tees and plays a provisional into the fairway. He then spots his original ball out of bounds and must proceed with the provisional. He lies three in the fairway – the provisional shot from the tee was his second swing, plus a one-stroke penalty, making it his third shot.
Golf Rule 27, Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball – Simplified Version
27-1. If a ball is lost, hit out of bounds or not found within five minutes of starting a search, the stroke-and-distance penalty applies. The player takes one penalty stroke and plays another shot from as close as possible to the spot of the previous shot. If the shot was played from the tee, the player can re-tee. Otherwise, a ball must be dropped according to Rule 20-5.
27-2. If a player thinks his ball might be lost or out of bounds, he can play a provisional ball from the same spot as the previous shot. He must declare that he’s hitting a provisional before searching for the first ball.
After hitting a provisional, the player can keep playing that ball until he gets to the place where his original ball is believed to be. If he hits the provisional from there, it becomes the ball in play and the player adds one stroke (per the stroke-and-distance penalty).
If the original ball is found out of bounds, or not found at all within five minutes, the provisional becomes the ball in play and a penalty stroke is added.
If the player finds his original ball in bounds, he continues playing with the original ball, not the provisional.
27-1. Stroke And Distance; Ball Out Of Bounds; Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes
a. Proceeding Under Stroke and Distance
At any time, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5), i.e., proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.
Except as otherwise provided in the Rules, if a player makes a stroke at a ball from the spot at which the original ball was last played, he is deemed to have proceeded under penalty of stroke and distance.
b. Ball Out of Bounds
If a ball is out of bounds, the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5).
c. Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes
If a ball is lost as a result of not being found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it, the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5).
27-2. Provisional Ball
If a ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally in accordance with Rule 27-1. The player must inform his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play that he intends to play a provisional ball, and he must play it before he or his partner goes forward to search for the original ball.
If he fails to do so and plays another ball, that ball is not a provisional ball and becomes the ball in playunder penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1); the original ball is lost.
(Order of play from teeing ground – see Rule 10-3)
b. When Provisional Ball Becomes Ball in Play
The player may play a provisional ball until he reaches the place where the original ball is likely to be. If he makes a stroke with the provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place, the original ball is lost and the provisional ball becomes the ball in playunder penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1).
If the original ball is lost outside a water hazard or is out of bounds, the provisional ball becomes the ball in play, under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1).
c. When Provisional Ball to be Abandoned
If the original ball is neither lost nor out of bounds, the player must abandon the provisional ball and continue playing the original ball. If it is known or virtually certain that the original ball is in a water hazard, the player may proceed in accordance with Rule 26-1. In either situation, if the player makes any further strokes at the provisional ball, he is playing a wrong ball and the provisions of Rule 15-3 apply.