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 a 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; the player 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 the 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, a player may take stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing the original ball or another ball from where the previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. was made (see Rule 14.6).

The player always has this stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief option:

Once the player puts another ball in playIn Play: The status of a player’s 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 a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). (see Rule 14.4):

But this does not apply to a ball to be played from where the previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. was made when the player:

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

a. When Ball Is Lost or Out of Bounds

(1) When Ball Is Lost. A ball is lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’scaddie) begins to search for it. if not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddieCaddie: Someone who helps a player during a round, including in these ways: begins to search for it.

If a ball is found in that time but it is uncertain whether it is the player’s ball:

  • The player must promptly attempt to identify the ball (see Rule 7.2) and is allowed a reasonable time to do so, even if that happens after the three-minute search time has ended.

  • This includes a reasonable time to get to the ball if the player is not where the ball is found.

If the player does not identify his or her ball in that reasonable time, the ball is lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’scaddie) begins to search for it..

(2) When Ball Is Out of Bounds. A 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:.

A ball is in bounds when any part of the ball:

A player may stand 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 play a ball on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:.

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

If a ball is lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’scaddie) begins 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., the player must take stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing the original ball or another ball from where the previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of the 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: Instead of taking stroke-and-distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). relief, the player may substituteSubstitute: To change the ball the player is using to play a hole by having another ball become the ball in play. another ball as allowed under a Rule that applies when his or her ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certainKnown or Virtually Certain: The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move. that the ball:

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 18.2: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. Under Rule 14.7a.

18.3 Provisional Ball

a. When Provisional Ball Is Allowed

If a ball might be lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’scaddie) begins to search for it. outside a penalty areaPenalty Area: An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s 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 the player may play another ball provisionally under penalty of stroke and distanceStroke and Distance: The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). (see Rule 14.6).

For a ball that might be lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’scaddie) begins to search for it., this applies:

But if the player is aware that the only possible place the original ball could be lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’scaddie) begins to search for it. is in a penalty areaPenalty Area: An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there., a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be: is not allowed and a ball played from where the previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. was made becomes the player’s ball in playIn Play: The status of a player’s 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 a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). (see Rule 18.1).

If a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be: itself might be lostLost: The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’scaddie) begins to search for it. outside a penalty areaPenalty Area: An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s 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.:

b. Announcing Play of Provisional Ball

Before the strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. is made, the player must announce that he or she is going to play a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be::

If the player does not announce this (even if he or she intended to play a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be:) and plays a ball from where the previous strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. was made, that ball is the player’s ball in playIn Play: The status of a player’s 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 a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). (see Rule 18.1).

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

(1) Playing Provisional Ball More Than Once. The player may continue to play the provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be: without it losing its status as a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be: 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 being played: than where the original ball is estimated to be.

This is true even if the provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be: is played several times.

But it stops being a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be: when it becomes the ball in playIn Play: The status of a player’s ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole: under (2) or is abandoned under (3) and therefore becomes a wrong ballWrong Ball: Any ball other than the player’s:.

(2) When Provisional Ball Becomes Ball in Play. The provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be: becomes the player’s ball in playIn Play: The status of a player’s 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 a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). in either of these two cases:

If the player plays a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be: into the same general location as the original ball and is unable to identify which ball is which:

Exception – Player May Substitute Another Ball Under Other Rule When It Is Known or Virtually Certain What Happened to Ball: The player has an extra option when his or her ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certainKnown or Virtually Certain: The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move. that the ball:

When one of those Rules applies, the player may either:

(3) When Provisional Ball Must Be Abandoned. When a provisional ballProvisional Ball: Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be: has not yet become the ball in playIn Play: The status of a player’s 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:

  • When Original Ball Is Found on Course Outside Penalty Area Before the End of the Three Minute Search Time. The player must play the original ball as it lies.

  • When Original Ball Is Found in Penalty Area or Is Known or Virtually Certain to Be in Penalty Area. The player must either play the original ball as it lies or take penalty relief under Rule 17.1d.

In either case:

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her 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.  Under Rule 14.7a.