RULE: Provisional Ball 2

First tee, still a bit stiff; hooked my drive to the left over the big tree. Now I can't find it!

Did it go into the penalty area? Maybe it hit a tree and stayed out.
Maybe it bounced through the penalty area and out into the clear!
Damn, I have looked for the allowed three minutes and still I cannot find it.
What do I do? Drop a ball behind the penalty area? Can I return to the tee and hit a provisional ball?

Answer 1.
In order to apply the penalty area  rule, it must be known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is actually in the penalty area. So it is most unclear that my ball went into the penalty, therefore I cannot invoke this rule (Rule 17). Your ball is in effect now lost. No, cannot drop then behind the penalty area (hazard).

In relation to the second question - Can I play a provisional ball?

Answer is Yes and no!

Yes: But!
“If your ball may be lost outside a penalty area or may be out of bounds, to save
time, you may play another ball provisionally under penalty of stroke and distance (lost ball). The player must inform his marker or fellow competitor in stroke play (opponent in match) that he intends to play a provisional ball, and he must play it before he or his partner goes forward to search for the original ball.” Read Rule 18.3

No: You cannot search for your ball and then decide to return to the tee and play a
provisional ball. You must declare your intention to play one before you go forward,
from the tee in this case.Once you proceed forward from the tee, you forfeit any right to put a provisional ball into play.

So, I have played a provisional ball according to these rules, and decided to play a second shot with it. Then as I walk towards the green, I find my original ball. What now?

The rules (Rule 18.3c) tell me I can play the provisional ball until I reach the place where my original ball is likely to be. I have met that condition, so far so good. However, if I had played the provisional ball close to the green and looked back to discover my original ball, it is too late. The provisional ball has become the ball in play! 

Another scenario: my provisional ball from the tee is in great position, just short of the green. Then I find my original ball in a really poor position (eg in the penalty area, up against a huge log, and a drop behind the hazard leaves me dead…!) Can I decide to play the provisional ball?

No! “If the original ball is neither lost nor out of bounds, the player must abandon the provisional ball and continue play with the original ball.” If I make any strokes with the provisional ball, I am playing a wrong ball – 2 stroke penalty!

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