Tuesday, 20 April 2010

You Cannot Declare Your Ball Lost

Here is an interesting question, which is typical of several that I have received on the same subject;
“I'm confused over you saying that you cannot declare your ball lost. If it is reasonable to assume that it is not in a hazard or out of bounds, I thought that you could declare it lost without looking for it.”
First, let me say that this is a common area of confusion amongst golfers. But please believe me that nothing a player says will render their ball lost. Decision 27/16 from the Rules of Golf helps to clarify this statement;
Q. A player searched for his ball for two minutes, declared it lost and started back to play another ball at the spot from which the original ball was played. Before he put another ball into play, his original ball was found within the five-minute period allowed for search. What is the ruling?

A. A player cannot render a ball lost by a declaration — see Definition of 'Lost Ball'. The original ball remained in play — see Definition of 'Ball in Play'.
The definition of ‘Lost Ball’ lists the only circumstances under which a ball can be lost;
"A ball is deemed 'lost' if:
a. It is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player's side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it; or
b. The player has made a stroke at a provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place (see Rule 27-2b); or
c. The player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 27-1a); or
d. The player has put another ball into play because it is known or virtually certain that the ball, which has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (see Rule 18-1), is in an obstruction (see Rule 24-3), is in an abnormal ground condition (see Rule 25-1c) or is in a water hazard (see Rule 26-1); or
e. The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball.
Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search."
Of course, the correct thing to do if you definitely do not want to search for your original ball is to put another ball into play as quickly as possible, without declaring it as a provisional ball. Remember that on the teeing ground you have to wait until all the players in the group have played before you play your second ball from the tee. Once you have made a stroke at another ball, under penalty of stroke and distance, it does not matter if your original ball is then found, as it is no longer the ball in play.

I hope that this has clarified that nothing a player says can render a ball lost under the Rules of Golf.

Regards,

Barry Rhodes




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24 comments:

courtgolf said...

Excellent advice - and just putting the second ball into play really helps keep the pace of play going.

This is one of those rules that is great for competition, but can be a real pain for the weekend golfer playing on a crowded course.

Carrbridge Golf Club said...

This should be printed in large letters in every locker room in the land!

Anonymous said...

I am still not clear. if the player leaves the scene of the lost ball search, returns to the tee to put another ball into play but before he hits and before 5 minutes is up, his partners then call out that they have found his ball ... what is the ruling?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

When the player put the substituted ball into play by dropping it at the spot of the previous stroke with the intent to play a ball under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1a), the original ball was lost (see Definition of "Lost Ball"). Therefore, they must continue play with the substituted ball and not their original ball.

Barry

David Harley said...

If you put a ball in the bush off the tee, and have no intention of looking for it, when placing your 3rd off the tee do you have to drop the ball or may you tee it up again?

Anonymous said...

Can you give me an example when it it advantagous to NOT look for a potentially lost ball? Wouldn't it be best to try to find it and see if it is possible to hit without penalty?

Glen McCluskey said...

I too am not quite clear.
If my fellow players find the ballbefore the 5 minutes are up and I have not placed a second ball or teed it up yet Can I return to my original ball which was found by my golfing buddies within the allotted 5 minutes, no penalties? Glen [thick head]

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

I'll give you two cases where a player may not want to find their original ball;
1. 1st stroke on a Par-3 sliced into deep undergrowth. Provisional ball played to within a foot of the hole.
2. Player hooks their drive badly on a dog leg Par-4. Their provisional ball is hit to the middle of the fairway with a clear shot to the green. As they approach the area where they think their drive may have landed they see that it it is likely to be in dense undergrowth, with little chance of getting it back to the fairway. They may even have to declare it unplayable and return to the tee for their third stroke, as they are not permitted to continue with a provisional ball once the original ball has been found in bounds.

I hope that you can see that in both these circumstances it is probably better for the player to put their provisional ball into play before their original ball is found.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Glen,

Yes, that is correct. In fact, you must play your original ball (or deem it unplayable) if it is found in bounds within five minutes and before you have put another ball into play.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

David,

Yes, you may tee your ball again, anywhere within the teeing ground. You will be playing your third stroke, having incurred the stroke and distance penalty for the lost ball.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry
I've been having a debate about the situation when a player plays a shot and it goes near (possibly in) a lateral water hazard. As it's not clear whether the ball will be found the player plays a provisional ball.
My friend believes that, in this case, the player has effectively declared the ball lost by playing a second ball. If the original ball is found (in the hazard or not) it must be picked up and play continues with the provisional ball.
I feel that you ought to be allowed to play a provisional and ignore it if the original is found - but this willinclude a penalty if the ball is in the hazard.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

There is a lot of misunderstanding about when you can play a ball that may be in a water hazard. I covered this subject in detail in my blog of 5th April 2010.

Briefly, if it is possible that a ball may be lost outside of a water hazard (or is out of bounds) then the player may play a provisional ball. If they find their ball, whether it is inside or outside the margin of a water hazard, then they must pick-up the provisional ball and continue with the original, even if it means declaring the original ball unplayable and having to return to where they played their last stroke.

Barry

Les England said...

The following happened to me in our 3-ball medal this morning:

We all played our tee shots. My two playing partners found their balls. Mine faded on the breeze but the landing area was predictable. However, the ground was very boggy and we suspected it was plugged. There was a 2-ball behind us and we didn’t want to waste time so it was agreed that we would let them play through and I would go back to play a “provisional” ball whilst my two colleagues kept looking for the full 5 minutes if necessary. I got back to the tee, teed up a “provisional” ball and waited for the 2-ball to get out of range then hit my “provisional” ball on the basis that if my original was not found I would then be playing 3from the tee. On my way back to the tee one of my partners found my original ball which was well plugged but he made no signal to me that he had done so. I played my “provisional” ball. My other playing partner then said that my “provisional” ball was the ball in play under the stroke and distance penalty. I bowed to his knowledge and picked up my original ball and continued to play the hole out with my “provisional” ball. Was this correct, or should I have played my original ball and if so, should I have been penalized for playing a “wrong” ball? Very confusing!!

Barry Rhodes said...

Les,

Your playing partner was correct and the second ball you played from the teeing ground was the ball in play, under penalty of stroke and distance. The reason is that part of Rule 27-2a states that if you intend to play a provisional ball it must be played before you or your partner goes forward to search for your original ball. If you fail to do so and then play another ball, that ball is not a provisional ball and becomes the ball in play.

The whole point of a provisional ball is to maintain the pace of play whenever there is a chance that the original ball may be lost or out of bounds. So it has to be played before you move away from where you played the stroke from.

Barry

Anonymous said...

in this months mag it states that if you play your ball from the tee and think it is ok then you look for it and cannot find it it states that you cannot go back to the tee to play another ball as you should of taken a provicional ball and that you no longer have the option of going back to tee so therefore in my mind if you are playing a medal round and this happens on the 3rd hole you are out of the competition this rule in the mag is down to the R & A Assistant Director is he right

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Unfortunately, you do not say which magazine you read this in. I would be very interested in knowing who was spreading such rubbish, especially if it was a golf magazine. If a player has not played a provisional ball and their ball is lost the only way to proceed under the Rules is to return to where you last played from, under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1). Please let me know where you read this, so that I can clear it up.

Barry

DMc said...

Barry,
Am I correct in saying that the definition of when a player has "put another ball into play" differs depending on whether the wayward shot was a tee shot or a stroke at a ball already in play?  If a tee shot, then the replacement ball is not "in play" until a stroke is made at it.  If the original stroke was at a ball already in play, then the replacement ball is "put into play" as soon as drop has been taken.  Is this correct?

How about this situation?
I play my tee shot, it lands on the fairway.  I play my second and it goes into dense shrubs near the green.  After 2 minutes of searching I return to the spot where I played my second stroke and take a drop.  The ball comes to rest more than two club lengths from where I dropped it, so I pick it up to re-drop.  Before I re-drop, and within the 5-minute limit, my caddy sights the original ball.  How should I proceed?

Barry Rhodes said...

DMc,

A ball is not in play from the teeing ground (i.e. between holes) until a stroke has been made at it. A ball that has been played from the teeing ground is in play until it is found out of bounds, is lost, or another ball has been put into play that has not been declared as a ‘provisional ball’.

In your question, once you dropped the substituted ball at the spot of the previous stroke, with the intent to play a ball under penalty of stroke and distance, it became the ball in play and the original ball was lost, Decision 27-1/2.

Barry

Anonymous said...

One of our members pushed his drive off the tee. Thinking it might be out of bounds he declared and played a provisional ball, which he hit in a similar direction.

He felt that he hit his provisional better than the original ball. After searching for the original ball for a few minutes he declared it lost and moved forward to search for his provisional.

He found a ball further up (all within the 5 minutes) which he assumed was his provisional and which he played, hitting the ball to within a couple of feet of the pin. When he got to the green he discovered that the ball he had played was his original ball. He sunk the putt.

Does he mark his card with a three?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

As the player played his original ball within five minutes of search beginning for it that was the ball in play. The fact that he had declared it lost is not relevant within the Rules and even the fact that he thought that he was playing a provisional ball does not alter the fact that he correctly played his original ball. In the circumstances described by you his score was 3.

Barry

Rick said...

This came up the other day. I hit a drive into the trees. I then hit a provisional ball in case my drive was lost. After unsuccessfully looking for my original ball for a couple of minutes (certainly not 5 minutes though), I decided I was not going to find it and was preparing to hit my provisional ball when my opponent yelled out he had found my original ball (more than likely still within 5 minutes). Do I still play my provisional ball or do I have to play my original?

Barry Rhodes said...

Rick,

If you original ball is found within 5 minutes of search beginning for it then that is the ball in play and you must pick-up your original ball, even if you deem your original ball to be unplayable. See my recent blog and short video on the subject of Playing a Provisional Ball (dated Wednesday 14th August, 2013).

Barry

mike bland said...



Barry Rhodes said...
Rick,

If you original ball is found within 5 minutes of search beginning for it then that is the ball in play and you must pick-up your original ball, even if you deem your original ball to be unplayable. See my recent blog and short video on the subject of Playing a Provisional Ball (dated Wednesday 14th August, 2013).

I think the second "original" above should read "provisional". Thanks.

Barry Rhodes said...

Quit6e correct Mike, well spotted. My reply should read,

"If you original ball is found within 5 minutes of search beginning for it then that is the ball in play and you must pick-up your provisional ball, even if you deem your original ball to be unplayable. See my recent blog and short video on the subject of Playing a Provisional Ball (dated Wednesday 14th August, 2013)."

Barry