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.

In the last email series, we learned about when a provisional ball is permitted. The fourth installment in the Rules series covers when a ball becomes the ball in play or when it must be abandoned (Rule 18.3c). When a provisional ball is played, it is important to know which ball is the ball in play to avoid being penalized for playing a wrong ball.

When a Provisional Ball Becomes the Ball in Play
A player’s provisional ball becomes the ball in play when:
a)   The original ball is lost anywhere on the course outside a penalty area or is out of bounds.

b)   The provisional is played from a spot that is closer to the hole than where the original is estimated to be.

The original ball becomes lost when three minutes has expired after the player or their caddie begins to search for the ball. A player cannot declare their ball lost. If a ball is found within the search time, the player must make all reasonable efforts to identify it as long as the provisional ball has not been played from a spot closer to the hole than the original was estimated to be.

A player may play a provisional ball more than once without losing its status as a provisional ball as long as it is not played from a spot closer to the hole than the original is estimated to be, but the provisional loses its status when it becomes the ball in play or must be abandoned.
When a Provisional Ball Must be Abandoned
A provisional ball that has not yet become the ball in play must be abandoned when:

a)   The original ball is found on the course outside a penalty area before the end of the three-minute search time. The original ball is the ball in play.

b)   The original ball is found in a penalty area or is virtually certain to be in a penalty area. The player must either play the original ball as it lies or take penalty relief under Rule 17.1d.

Click the image below for a video explanation of when a provisional ball must be abandoned, featuring Rules guru, Blakey.
In the next series, we will discuss how a player can take relief for a ball in penalty area.

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 Rules 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.