What Happens If You Lose Your Provisional Ball?

Rules guru Jeremy Ellwood asks, what happens if you lose your provisional ball?

What Happens If You Lose Your Provisional Ball?
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Every golfer, regardless of handicap, will hit their ball into trouble from time-to-time. Knowing how to proceed under the rules in this scenario is an absolute must. Most golfers know the most sensible tactic is to play a provisional ball, which becomes the one in play if you can’t find your original ball. However, what happens if you lose your provisional ball? This video and article tells you everything you need to know.

The first thing to say is that if you find your original ball, then it doesn’t matter. In this scenario you must carry on with your original ball and you will not lose any shots. However, things do start to get a little more costly if the original is lost and you then also can’t find your provisional.  

Importantly, the rules do allow you to play another provisional ball if you think your first and second attempts might both be lost. Of course, you would need to declare your intention to play another provisional to your playing partners before you make the shot.

If this was a tee shot, and both the original and first provisional ball were both lost, then your second provisional would be your fifth shot.

If you choose not to play a second provisional and you fail to find your original ball and your provisional, you would then have to go back to where you last played from and have another go under penalty of Stroke And Distance.

The last thing to say is that it is worth considering what format of competition you are playing in here. If you’re competing in a Stableford, and the first two balls were lost, it might well be worth questioning whether it is worth your while continuing to play the hole. Putting a blob down on your card might be your best option to keep play moving.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response