Ask the Rules Guy: Water balls and lost and found provisionals

Thursday July 1st, 2010

• Got a Rules question? Zip it to rulesguy@golf.com

\nDEAR RULES GUY: I was playing in a pretty heavy rain, and as I addressed my ball to putt I tipped my head downward and water gushed off my bucket hat, splashing onto my ball and causing it to move. Thinking it was an 'act of God,' I didn't penalize myself and played the ball from where it ended up. Should I have replaced my ball with penalty?
—Rodney Shipley, Detroit, Mich.

Assuming you weren't wearing an actual bucket, water does not fall under the umbrella of what's considered an 'outside agency.' If it did, you'd have been required to replace the ball. Similarly, rain will often accumulate on a player's rainsuit. If rain runs off or is deflected by the rainsuit onto your ball and causes it to move, you incur no penalty. The ball is played from the position where it came to rest after it was moved by the water. So don't worry, you did the right thing.

\nDEAR RULES GUY: A buddy in my group pushed his tee shot into a tree line. He thought it might be lost, so he hit a provisional—and this flew directly into the same tree line. We thought we could find at least one of the balls, and we found both—10 feet from each other, identical and unmarked. It turns out he grabbed both balls from the same sleeve. Should he have returned to the tee hitting 5? Or could he have chosen one of them and hit 3?
—John Flynn, Jacksonville, Fla.

Make sure to let your buddy know that his honesty will be rewarded with a gift from the Rules gods. Under Decision 27/11, if both balls are found inbounds and through the green, it wouldn't be fair (or expedient) to return to the tee playing 5. So he should've selected one of the balls, treated it as his provisional and put the other in his bag. And if that gift from the Rules gods doesn't come through, buy him a Sharpie for his birthday.

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