Rules of Golf Quiz #2

Jim Ferree, PGA, Head Golf Professional

If your keeping score for Fred, what number would you write down for hole #7? We know that a
player has 3 minutes to search for a lost ball after which the ball is declared to be lost. Fred
complied and went back to the tee to put another ball in play. The tricky part is that his original
ball was later found in the hole meaning Fred unknowingly had completed play of the hole and
none of the strokes with his second ball counted. Fred gets a 1 on his card! If his ball had been
found anywhere else other than in the hole after searching 3 minutes, his score would have
been 7. I doubt any of us will have to deal with such a highly unlikely scenario as this, but it
does exemplify the potential complexity of the rules. In addition, we as players can play for
years and with one swing we find ourselves in a unique situation where we are unsure what the
proper ruling/procedure is. This next scenario is one we are more likely to encounter.

Rules Quiz #2:

Moe, Curly and Larry are playing in their club’s monthly stroke-play tournament when
Curly pulls his tee shot on the dogleg right par 4 twelfth hole into the dense woods on the left.
Feeling his ball might be lost, Curly declares to Moe and Larry his intention of hitting a
provisional ball. Curly re-tees and proceeds to smash it right down the middle of the fairway.
All three go to the area where Curly’s original ball went and find Curly’s ball within the 3-minute
time limit. That’s the good news. The bad news is the ball lies underneath a big bush. Curly
decides he wants to declare his original ball unplayable. The three options, all with a one stroke
penalty of the unplayable ball rule are; 1) drop 2 clubs lengths from original ball no nearer the
hole, 2) keep point where original ball lies between you and hole and drop as far back on that
line as you want, or 3) go back and hit from spot where the last stroke was made. Since the ball
was in the middle of a big bush the two club lengths in option 1 would be of no help. Option 2
is also no help since keeping the point of the original ball between the place to drop and the
hole only gets Curly deeper into the undergrowth. Curly elects option 3 and since he had
already hit a provisional ball from the tee decides to play his provisional where he is lying 3
hitting his fourth shot.

Is Curly allowed to do this under the rules of golf?