Rules and Circumstances for Playing a Provisional Ball

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You pull your tee shot, and you follow it along the treeline, where you think it ends up out of bounds, but you can’t be sure. What’s the correct course of action? Take the cart up and look for your ball? Play another just in case and hope you find the first? If you don’t know how to properly handle this situation, you could be costing yourself unnecessary strokes.

More often than not, if you’re unsure whether your shot stayed in, you should play it safe and hit a provisional ball. By playing a provisional ball, you save your group the time of going out and searching for your first shot only to return to the tee when you can’t find it, and you help your score by avoiding being penalized stroke and distance. Before playing your new ball, it’s important to fully understand the rules and circumstances under which you’re allowed to legally use a provisional ball. So in this lesson, we teach you how to properly put a provisional ball in play and handle iffy situations you might encounter when you do.

Tips for playing a provisional ball

To help you best utilize your provisional ball out on course, Mark Wilson of the PGA Rules Committee walks you through the proper protocol for playing a provisional ball. He demonstrates the correct way to announce to your playing partners that you plan on hitting a provisional, and talks about what can happen if you don’t follow the rules for announcing. Then Mark explains what to do when you find your original ball after playing a provisional.

You may also encounter the rare scenario where you need to play a provisional ball while on the putting green. Mark talks about why you might opt to take a one stroke penalty and play a new ball rather than scrambling from a bunker or other hazard after putting off the surface. With Mark’s tips for playing a provisional ball in accordance with the rules, you can avoid incurring any unwanted strokes and get your round back on track!

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