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Rules of Golf - Rule 27: Ball Lost out of Bounds; Provisional Ball

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CARMEL, IN - JULY 30: Andy Bean (R) drops the ball after hitting his tee shot out-of-bounds on the ninth hole during the first round of the 2009 U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick Golf Club July 30, 2009 in Carmel, Indiana.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Official Rules of Golf appear on the About.com Golf site courtesy of the USGA, are used with permission, and may not be reprinted without the permission of the USGA.

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).

Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the original ball, that has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (Rule 18-1), is in an obstruction (Rule 24-3), is in an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or is in a water hazard (Rule 26-1), the player may proceed under the applicable Rule.

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 27-1:
Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.

27-2. Provisional Ball
• a. Procedure
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 play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1); the original ball is lost.

(Order of play from teeing ground – see Rule 10-3)

Note: If a provisional ball played under Rule 27-2a might be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, the player may play another provisional ball. If another provisional ball is played, it bears the same relationship to the previous provisional ball as the first provisional ball bears to the original ball.

• 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 play under 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).

Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the original ball, that has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (Rule 18-1), or is in an obstruction (Rule 24-3) or an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1c), the player may proceed under the applicable Rule.

• 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.

Note: If a player plays a provisional ball under Rule 27-2a, the strokes made after this Rule has been invoked with a provisional ball subsequently abandoned under Rule 27-2c and penalties incurred solely by playing that ball are disregarded.

©USGA, used with permission

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