Rule 18 - Stroke-and-Distance Relief; Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball

Purpose of Rule: Rule 18 covers taking relief under penalty of stroke and distance. When your ball is lost outside a penalty area or comes to rest out of bounds, the required progression of playing from the teeing area to the hole is broken; you must resume that progression by playing again from where the previous stroke was made.

This Rule also covers how and when a provisional ball may be played to save time when your ball in play might have gone out of bounds or be lost outside a penalty area.

18.1  Relief Under Penalty of Stroke and Distance Allowed at Any Time

At any time, you may take stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief. Once you put another ball in playIn Play: The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole. under penalty of stroke and distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6)., your original ball is no longer in playIn Play: The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole. and must not be played. This is true even if your original ball is then found on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground. before the end of the three-minute search time.

18.2  Ball Lost or Out of Bounds: Stroke-and-Distance Relief Must Be Taken

a. When Your Ball Is Lost or Out of Bounds

When Ball is Lost. Your ball is lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner’scaddie) begin to search for it. if not found in three minutes after you or your caddieCaddie: Someone who helps you during a round to carry, transport or handle your clubs and/or give you advice. A caddie may also help you in other ways allowed by the Rules (see Rule 10.3b). begin to search for it. If a ball is found in that time but it is uncertain whether it is your ball:

If you do not identify your ball in that reasonable time, the ball is lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner’scaddie) begin to search for it..

When Ball is Out of Bounds. Your ball at rest is out of boundsOut of Bounds: All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds. only when all of it is outside the boundary edge of the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground..

b. What to Do When Your Ball Is Lost or Out of Bounds

If your ball is lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner’scaddie) begin to search for it. or out of boundsOut of Bounds: All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds., you must take stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing a ball from where the previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of your club made to strike the ball. was made (see Rule 14.6).

Exception – Player May Substitute Another Ball under Other Rule When It Is Known or Virtually Certain What Happened to Ball.

 For more information on when the Exception applies.

18.3  Provisional Ball

a. When Provisional Ball Is Allowed

If your ball might be lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner’scaddie) begin to search for it. outside a penalty areaPenalty Area: An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if your ball comes to rest there. or be out of boundsOut of Bounds: All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds., to save time you may play another ball provisionally under penalty of stroke and distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6)..

But if you are aware that the only possible place your original ball could be lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner’scaddie) begin to search for it. is in a penalty areaPenalty Area: An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if your ball comes to rest there., a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area. is not allowed and a ball played from where the previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of your club made to strike the ball. was made becomes your ball in playIn Play: The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole. under penalty of stroke and distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6)..

b. Announcing Play of Provisional Ball

Before the strokeStroke: The forward movement of your club made to strike the ball. is made, you must announce that you are going to play a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area..

It is not enough for you only to say that you are playing another ball or are playing again.

You must use the word “provisional” or otherwise clearly indicate that you are playing the ball provisionally under Rule 18.3.

If you did not announce this (even if you intended to play a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area.) and played a ball from where the previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of your club made to strike the ball. was made, that ball is your ball in playIn Play: The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole. under penalty of stroke and distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6)..

c. Playing Provisional Ball Until It Becomes the Ball in Play or Is Abandoned

Playing Provisional Ball More Than Once. You may continue to play the provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area. without it losing its status as a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area. so long as it is played from a spot that is the same distance or farther from the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole you are playing. than where your original ball is estimated to be.

When Provisional Ball Becomes Ball in Play. Your provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area. becomes your ball in playIn Play: The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole. under penalty of stroke and distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). in either of these two cases:

Exception – Player May Substitute Another Ball Under Other Rule When It Is Known or Virtually Certain What Happened to Ball.

 For more information on when the Exception applies.

When Provisional Ball Must Be Abandoned. When your provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area. has not yet become your ball in playIn Play: The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole., it must be abandoned in either of these two cases:

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where you are required or allowed to play your ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 18.3: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play..