Hi :

During the 2021 Tour Player Summit*, it was suggested The Tour provide players with a series of educational emails and videos that would help to provide players with information on some of the Rules of Golf. We are excited to continue this journey with you.

The third Rule in the series covers when a player can play a provisional ball.
When Provisional Ball Is Allowed (Rule 18.3a)
If a ball might be lost outside a penalty area or be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally under penalty of stroke and distance. But, if the player is aware that the only possible place the original ball could be lost is in a penalty area, a provisional ball is not allowed and a ball played from where the previous stroke was made becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance.

Note that a player is only permitted to play a provisional when the ball might be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area. If you know that your ball is in a penalty area, you cannot play a provisional. 
When a player decides to play a provisional ball, they must announce their intention under Rule 18.3b:
Announcing Play of Provisional Ball
Before the stroke is made, a player must announce that they are going to play a provisional ball. It is not enough for the player only to say that he or she is playing another ball or is playing again. 

The player must use the word "provisional" or otherwise clearly indicate that they are playing the ball provisionally under Rule 18.3. If a player does not announce this (even if they intended to play a provisional ball) and they play a ball from where the previous stroke was made, that ball is the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance.
It is good practice to ensure the provisional ball is uniquely identifiable from the original to help with identification if both balls end up in the same area.

For a visual explanation of the procedure of playing a provisional ball, click the image below to view a video from the Colorado Golf Association.
In the next series, we will take a look at when a provisional ball becomes the ball in play or must be abandoned.

All information on the Rules of Golf can be found on the R&A website under Rules of Golf. Tour players are strongly encouraged take the free Level 1 Rules of Golf course and exam at the R&A Rules Academy. Any player who achieves Level 1 certification can enter a draw for a round of golf at Coppinwood Golf Club by submitting their certificate to patricia@gtaamtour.com before the first event of the season.

We also recommend ALL Tour players download the R&A (or USGA) Rules of Golf App on their phones. This App is VERY easy to use and can provide players with instant information on how to proceed.
As always, if you are ever unsure how to proceed on the golf course, contact a GTA AM Tour Referee for assistance.

Christian De Cloet
Manager, Tour Operations; Level 3 Referee

*The Tour Player Summit is held annually and provides players and Tour Team members with an opportunity to find ways to improve the Tour experience for ALL.