Rules Guy: What happens when my first ball collides with my provisional?

January 19, 2019

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.
On a par 4, my buddy hit a drive into the trees. He topped his provisional down the fairway but managed to knock his next shot onto the front of the green. While looking for my own wayward drive, I found his original ball. Sure enough, his second shot with this ball hits his provisional on the fly and ricochets to within a foot of the hole for a tap-in birdie … I think. Does his provisional ball count as an outside agency and get treated as a rub of the green, or would it be considered part of his equipment and so subject to a penalty?
—SEAN HARVEY, VIA E-MAIL

As the noted Scottish golf rules expert Rod Stewart once put it, “Some guys have all the luck/Some guys have all the pain/Some guys get all the breaks/Some guys do nothing but complain…” Which guy is your pal? The lucky one (which, if this was match play, makes you the pained one).


Since the provisional was no longer in play, Rule 19-5 doesn’t apply. In equity and by analogy to Rule 19-5a (check out Decision 19-5/5 if you’ve got a minute to kill) there’s no penalty and the ball is played as it lies. So it’s a strange bird, but a bird all the same.
Got a rules question? Of course you do! Whatever it may be, send yours to [email protected] and the question may be answered in an upcoming issue of GOLF. Until then, play by the Rules!
Ball in air