Matchplay – ball holed but not found

A simple question I’ve been asked which might create a chase through the rule book.

Matchplay, both players played approach (lets say 2nd shots) to slightly hidden green. Player A found ball, Player B didn’t and conceded the hole. As they were leaving the next tee having driven off the players behind called that there was a ball in the hole of the previous green – it was Player B’s.

My initial reaction is that Player B’s ball in the hole was lost as it was not found within the 3 minute search window. However the hole was completed when Player B holed out (Rule 6.5) in fewer strokes than it was possible for Player A to now do (Rule 3.2a).

Is it possible to lose a ball which is not in play (as it has been holed) and after the hole has been completed?

If Player B had conceded the hole, then walked across the green and found their ball in the hole within the 3 minutes then I would confidently say that the concession did not stand as you cannot make a concession after a hole is completed (Rule 3.2b).

As an aside, Player B would be able to ask for a ruling even though they have started play of the next hole as new information has come to light (although they must notify Player A of this intent before starting the hole after) Rule 20.1b(2). This also means that the match score can be corrected (Rule 3.2d(3) Exception 3).

Please help me get my thinking straight on this one – thank you.

15 thoughts on “Matchplay – ball holed but not found

  1. Interesting.
    If player B made Player A aware that he is going to request a ruling, then surely the match score should be altered, as Player B had completed/won the hole by holing his second shot??
    If no request for a ruling is brought to the attention of Player A, then may be the match score remains.

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    1. In a situation like this you would continue with an uncertain match score and would need to play both scenarios to a conclusion. Until the ruling is made, the players would not know whether Player A or Player B won the hole so there would be a 2 hole difference between the scores.

      If we imagine that the players can’t ask for a ruling until they get to the clubhouse, Player A was 1 up after 15, and the issue occurred on the 16th hole. Depending on the decision the match could either be All Square or Player A could be 2 up as they play the 17th. If the 17th was halved Player A might have won 2&1 but the match might still be all square so the players should play on until there is a result in the match if Player B had won the 16th (so possibly playing extra holes if the 18th was also halved).

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  2. This is a very interesting scenario and one that would have had most of us quickly reaching for the rule book. Player A has completed the hole (6.5) and has won the hole 3.2a. What might be the situation if player A was giving a shot and player B had had the opportunity to halve the hole but didn’t play because player A had conceded the hole?

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      1. Of course. Perhaps I shouldn’t referee any more if I have lost the ability for clear thinking!!!!

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    1. Well what a good question. Don really highlights a possible nightmare for the committee!
      First, what a school boy error not looking in the hole, I always do it…..
      As we know a concession can not be made after completing the hole.
      The request could be considered timely due to new information and as stated by the guru, play should have been completed to 18th where a ruling could be obtained.
      If necessary extra holes could have been played thereafter.

      If player A did not receive a shot then the match should be corrected to player B winning the hole in question. The big question, what if player A had a shot and had a chip/putt for a half ? 🤔🤕
      The R&A may need to help the guru/s

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      1. If Player A was receiving a shot on the hole and so had a chip / putt for a half then even though B had holed out the hole had not been completed. Therefore Player B can concede the next stroke so I think the hole would be halved (& if A was getting 2 strokes then A would have won it).

        This does raise the question as to whether it is allowable to concede the hole when your opponent can only get a half – Rule 3.2b(1) implies that it is: “Conceding a Hole…. is allowed any time before the hole is completed”. However this doesn’t seem to be consistent with the more general interpretations of 3.2b so my feeling is that in this situation any concession would only be of the next stroke (and therefore a half).

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  3. Thanks for the explanation, but does anyone know what the ruling would be please? i.e. who won, lost the hole in question?

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    1. I hear your frustration Bob. I think the problem is that we can’t be certain on this without referring to the R&A for a definitive ruling on this. I’m at about 90% that B’s ball was lost (even though it was in the hole) as it had not been found and identified within the 3 minute search time and so A won the hole. I would point to interpretation 18.3c(2)/4 which states that a holed provisional ball becomes the ball in play when it is lifted out of the hole – not directly relevant but perhaps implies that lifting a ball out of the hole might be akin to finding and identifying it….

      I am very happy to hear other opinions and could easily be persuaded otherwise (i.e. B won because the hole was completed).

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  4. Hi Bob – Please share the response from the Rules Official – especially if it is a formal R&A response.

    I have been trying to resolve this via other channels and the conclusion we have come to is as follows:

    The “correct” result of the hole is that B won it as you cannot lose a ball when it is in the hole (refer to Interpretation 6.5/1 Another Ball Played After Hole Was Unknowingly Completed) and this is the result that should stand. A concession could not be given as the hole had been completed (Rules 6.5 and 3.2b)
    However, if the players agreed a different match score between themselves (perhaps in the mistaken understanding that Player A had won the hole and then teed off on the next hole then that new match position would stand (Rule 3.2d(3)).

    Lets hope the R&A response is consistent with this analysis!
    Also, Player B cannot ask for a ruling after teeing off on the next hole as not all the conditions at Rule 20.1b(2) are satisfied – notably Player A did not breach Rule 3.2d(1) (giving wrong number of strokes taken) or Rule 3.2d(2) (failing to tell the player about a penalty).

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    1. Agreed, hope we can get a response from R&A, fingers crossed
      The downside for Player B is that 3.2d(3) trumps, even if he could get a ruling (which he can’t) to say he won the hole.
      Who would want to be a referee or on the committee !

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  5. Hi
    Please see below the response from the R&A Rules Asistant Director:-

    HI Bob,

    Apologies for the delay in getting back to you, when I have real life queries and hypothetical queries, I’m sure you will appreciate I need to prioritise the real life ones.

    In this situation, as the players had agreed to the score on the basis of player A having won the hole, that match score now stands. It isn’t a matter of the concession being withdrawn or changed, the concession never applied in the first place given that the hole had already been won by player B. It is more a case of the player’s getting the score match score wrong because they didn’t realise B had won the hole. Irrespective of the reason for the match score being wrong, that now stands (unless the Exception in Rule 3.2d(3) applies).

    B could request a ruling from the Committee, but as player A didn’t give him / her wrong info on the number of strokes that he / she had and did not fail to tell the player about a penalty then the Committee should Rule that there would be no change to the match score. It might seem harsh, but Player B has no-one to blame but himself / herself for not realising his / her ball was holed and therefore for agreeing to the wrong match score.

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