17 Golf Rules you Definitely need to know when Playing in a Tournament

By Joel Beall
Continued from July Rule Tip
  1. Lost ball time

You have five minutes to search for a ball. The clock begins when you start looking, not after you’ve hit your shot. After five minutes, the ball is considered lost.

  1. Announcing the provisional

Confession: I love the word “reload.” It turns an unfortunate event — the prospect of a lost ball — into a course of action. Without checking Webster’s, I think reload’s etymology stems from Clint Eastwood movies. “I’m out of juice. Time to reload; fire in the hole!” Hard to believe I went so long being single.

Alas, saying “reload” does not constitute proper procedure, according to the USGA. A player must announce “I am hitting a provisional” to competitors. You must abandon your provisional ball if your original isn’t lost or out-of-bounds, or you determine that it’s in a water hazard:

Conversely, anytime you hit a great provisional shot, you might not want to find your original ball. If someone finds it before you play a shot with the provisional, the first ball is the one you must play.

  1. Relief from cart paths, ground under repair, immovable objects

Most players understand they get help in such scenarios. In that same vein, most don’t know the proper way to push ahead. You take your stance, from there getting one club length of relief. The new spot has to be without interference from what caused the drop. From the USGA: “For example, if the ball lies on a cart path, the ball must be dropped at a point where the cart path does not interfere with the lie of the ball, his stance, and also the area of intended swing. If the ball comes to rest in such a position, it must be re-dropped.”

  1. Unplayable lie

Unlike above, your point of drop doesn’t start from a place without interference. You have three options:

  • Play a ball as nearly as possible to the spot from which the original ball was last played, no nearer to the hole. If it was on the tee, you can re-tee.
  • Take a drop within two club lengths of where the ball is at rest, not nearer the hole.
  • Draw a line from the hole to where the ball is located and drop anywhere behind that point, keeping the point between you and the hole.

I found No. 2 out the hard way after my ball went under a pine tree in a tournament. What that pine tree was doing in the middle of a fairway is beyond me. (Although, it wasn’t the fairway I was supposed to be on, but semantics.) I couldn’t get to my ball, so decided to go with two-clubs length option, only to discover I’d still be under the pine tree. Ten years later, I’m still washing the sap off my neck.


(to be continued)