Q: John and Chris were playing the fourth hole in their Saturday men’s event. John hit his ball from the fairway and was almost sure that he went out of bounds. He announced to Chris that he was hitting a provisional ball. Before hitting his provisional, John replaced his divot and dropped a new ball as near as possible to the spot where he hit his last shot. Did John proceed in accordance with the rules?
A: No. A player is prohibited from replacing his or other divots in the area in which he would be dropping a provisional ball. Rule 13-2 prohibits improving the area in which a ball is to be dropped by eliminating irregularities of surface by replacing a divot.
John did the right thing when he replaced his divot but he should have waited until he hit his provisional. He later told Chris that he wanted to replace the divot before he hit since his drop might end up in the old divot. Chris said that if that happened he would be required to re-drop since his ball would be deemed nearer to the hole than his previous shot. Chris is correct.
Tip of the day: Take care of the course that you play and replace or sand your divot and at least one more nearby.
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