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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51 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

Joel White said...

"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;

Does the above rule not allow for a player to purposely avoid finding the ball himself and/or identifying it, thus having the same effect as a declaration.

For example, someone states that they find my ball in long grass where i reply "nah doubt it would be mine, it was further back" and look elsewhere for the remainder of five minutes?

Regards,

Joel.

Barry Rhodes said...

I have had my attention drawn to a misleading answer of mine to the question asked on 20th January 2011, which was;

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?"

My original answer applied to a ball that was being dropped at the point where it was last played from. If this point was the teeing ground, then the ball is not in play until a stroke has been made at it. Therefore if the ball is found within 5 minutes of search beginning for it and the player has not made a stroke at another ball on the teeing ground, their original ball is still in play.

Barry

Anonymous said...

You stated "So, if a player purposely refuses to identify his ball before putting another ball into play the Committee would be justified in imposing a penalty of disqualification under Rule 33-7."
While I do understand this, the easy "out" would be for the player to identify his ball, call it unaplayable, then put another ball into play as he originally intended - therefore there seems to be no reason not to identify his ball (noting that in your scenario he has not played a provisional) No?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Anonymous,

Not necessarily! For example, on a par-3 a player hits their ball into deep undergrowth in an area of trees. They then play a provisional ball to within a few inches of the hole. A spectator finds their ball, which is still the ball in play, but the player refuses to identify it, although the Rules require them to do so. The problem for the player is that they have to continue with the original ball, deem it unplayable for a penalty stroke drop it according to Rule 28. They are now lying two with a very difficult shot from rough, through trees, onto the green instead of being a short putt for a 4. If they run up to their provisional ball and make a stroke at it (i.e. putt it into the hole) it does not matter if their original ball is subsequently found, because they have put it in play.

Barry

John Peterman said...

Barry,
Under what situations would the “The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball” definition for a lost ball be relevant? Rule 20.4 states that “A substituted ball becomes the ball in play when it has been dropped or placed” so why is the stroke required? Is a substitution in the case of a lost ball always an incorrect substittuion so the stroke is required?

Barry Rhodes said...

John,

One circumstance that comes to mind is Rule 20-6.

A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly.

So, if the player makes a stroke at the wrongly substituted ball it is in play and the original is lost, whereas if they realise their mistake before making a stroke at it they may lift the substituted ball that they have dropped or placed and continue with the original ball.

Barry

John Slack said...

This just happened to me. Could not find my drive (possibly played or taken by someone on another fairway). Busy course (I knew I should have gone back to the Tee Box) so I dropped another ball in the general area of the lost ball and took a two stroke penalty which I thought was the penalty under 27-1
After the game (Stroke play) my friends said I was disqualified.

All in good fun of course but who is right?

Barry Rhodes said...

John,

Your friends were correct in disqualifying you. Whenever your ball is lost or out of bounds, even in the unfortunate circumstances that you have described, you must return to the place where you last played from under penalty of stroke and distance. There is no otion in Rule 27-1 to take a penalty of two strokes and drop a ball. Logically, how would you know where to drop a ball that cannot be found?

Regards,

Barry

mike bland said...

Hi Barry,

Decision 27-1/3 gives a clear account of this action, adding 1+2 penalty shots, and then goes in to confusion about committees and serious breaches, very confusing. I don't think the day is long enough to replay Rule 20-7c and all it's explanatory notes. Maybe England golf would consider a re-write here in the future instead of using their energies in NOT shortening the standard length of a putter shaft. What a lot of "Anchorage".
Great web site, thanks Mike Bland

Barry Rhodes said...

Mike,

There should be no confusion in understanding Decision 27-1/3. If a players receives a material advantage in playing from a wrong place, as in your original scenario, the Committee must disqualify them.

England Golf has nothing to do with defining or amending the Rules of Golf; that is the joint responsibility of R&A and USGA.

Like the majority of golfers I welcome the prohibition against 'anchoring' any stroke, which does not stop anyone from using any size of putter that they choose.

I am pleased that you find my blogs interesting, even though we obviously disagree on some issues!

Barry



chrisdutoit said...

Barry, I am a new subscriber and find your blogs most interesting. However I would query your answer in your blog of 15 November 2015. " If they run up to their provisional ball and make a stroke at it (i.e. putt it into the hole) it does not matter if their original ball is subsequently found, because they have put it in play." Surely the opposition can request the player to re-putt his ball presuming he putted out of turn, while they used up 5 minutes searching for his ball before they, in turn, putted. However I do not know what the ruling would be if the provisional ball played off the tee ended in the hole resulting in a 'hole-in-three' ! I presume this would stand and finding his original ball would be academic.

Barry Rhodes said...

Chrisdutoit,

As I said in the blog, in this circumstance the player has put their provisional ball 'in play'. Yes, the opponent can still request that the original ball be replaced at the side of the hole and not putted into the hole until it is their turn to play.

If the provisional ball is holed, the provisional ball becomes the ball in play as soon as the player picks it out of the hole, provided their original ball has not already been found in bounds within five minutes of B starting to search for it, Decision 27-2b/2.

If you have an interest in these unusual Rules scenarios I recommend that you refer to the Decisions on the Rules of Golf book, which is a good read and provides the authoratative rulings for most incidents that can occur.

Barry

Anonymous said...

How would you rule on this. Par 4 2nd shot to green from 150yds. Strike the ball and hits green but lose sight of it and presume that it bounced into water hazard.d behind green. Drop a ball per rules, take penalty, and chip onto green. On pulling flag realize that the 2nd shot had in fact gone into the hole and thus finished hole with a 2 (eagle). Or is the drop/penalty the way to score.?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

The ball was holed with the second stroke. So even though the player should not have taken relief from the water hazard, as it was not known or virtually certain that therir ball was in the hazard, any strokes or penalties with that wrong ball did not apply (Decision 1-1/4).

Barry

Mike4Rules said...

When the ball was holed (second stroke) the hole is completed. Any subsequent actions are meaningless. Time to move on. M4R

Unknown said...

Hi Barry,

If i was to hit my tee shot, and my group are all certain it has gone into a red hazard. So i choose to play 3 of the tee. My 3rd of the tee is fine and in play but as im walking down the fairway, notice my original ball was still in play....which ball would i have to play?


My reason for asking is, as far as im aware, you cant hit a provisional ball is you enter a red hazard. But if your 50/50 on if your ball has gone in the red hazard or just short, you would have to walk down...check...if it has gone into the hazard, you can go back to play your third from the tee.

I dont understand why you cant play a provisional ball based on, if the ball HAS gone into the hazard then your agreeing that you have chosen the option of playing from where you originally hit from. Rather then walk down then come back. This wouldnt give you any extra options because the course/ball position would determine which ball you played and the only advantage would be to speed up play by preventing the walk back. And help would be appreciated. Thanks

Barry Rhodes said...

Unknown,

First, the second ball that you played from the teeing ground, without announcing it as a provisional, is the ball in play. The original ball has to be abandoned. Decision 26/6.

You certainly may (and should) play a provisional ball if the original ball may be lost and is not known or virtually certain to be in a (lateral) water hazard, so there is no question of having to search for the original ball before returning to the teeing ground in a 50/50 situation.

Barry

Kleon Koutsokostas said...

Ok. So if i was to declare a provisional ball because we are 50/50 with the hazard, but then realise the ball has gone into the hazard, would my provisional ball be in play or would i have to go back to the tee to play my 3rd again?

Are the rules the same with both red/yellow markers?

Thanks

Barry Rhodes said...

Kleon,

You may only continue play with a provisional ball if the original ball is lost or out of bounds. So, if the original ball is found in the (lateral) water hazard, even if it is unplayable, the provisional ball must be abandoned and you must proceed with the original ball, e.g. take relief under penalty from the hazard. You do not have to return to where you last played from. This applies to both red/yellow hazards.

I recommend that you enter the term "provisional ball" in the search box at the right hand side of all my blog pages to understand more about this important Rules subject.

Barry

Kleon Koutsokostas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry Rhodes said...

Kleon,

You seem to be misunderstanding my replies and do not appear to have taken up my recommendation to check my other blog on playing a provisional ball.

* If your ball may be lost or may be out of bounds you may play a provisional ball.
* If your ball is known to be in a water hazard you may not.
* When you find your ball in a water hazard you can either play it, or take relief for a penalty of one stroke taking one of the three options; rarely is it the best option to go back to where you last played from.
* The Rules do not permit a player to play another ball that is not provisional knowing that the original ball may still be in play; as this would provide an element of choice.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Mike4Rules has asked me to post this comment for him in responese to Kleon;

Hi there.
Wouldn't that be ideal.
To play a 2nd tee shot knowing that you may already have a ball in play. You could give it a right old slam... I'm afraid golf is not like that.
Either play 3 off the tee or a provisional ball.... as has been explained all along.... Enjoy

Mike4rules

Kleon Koutsokostas said...

Sorry i may be explaining wrong. I do understand the rules which are stated above but i dont understand the reasoning to not be able to play a 3rd shot based on IF the ball has gone in the hazard then the 3rd shot comes into play. As this would speed up play.

Let me try and explain....

At the course where i am a member, on the 4th hole, there is red markers about 100yards down the fairway on the right, before the markers is out of bounds. But the markers also come in slightly towards the middle of the fairway. If my ball goes into the red markers, behind where they come into the fairway, option1, dropping to the side does not help. As i would be playing my 3rd shot sideways. Option2 doesnt either as I cant go further back in line with the flag because i would be out of bounds. (The tree's are high so i would need to could a could 10-20yards back)

This leaves me with the best option to go back where i tee'd off from. To try and get my drive down the fairway and past the markers.

My problem is, if it turns out my ball was just short of the red markers, i could play my 2nd sides ways and then my 3rd would be 100yards closer and the better option. But to make sure. I would have to walk to the markers, check where the ball ended up and then walk back.

But i was to hit another ball based on if the ball has gone in the red markers then i have already made the desicion to play from the tee but if it has not gone in the markers then the original ball is in play.

This does not give me any extra options as the ball position would determine which ball i play. (The same as playing a standard provisional)

The onlt advantage i see is to speed up play. I can appreciate that it is rare to go back to where u last played your shot but in this case it would be needed.

I understand he rules on provisional balls so maybe it cant be called a provisional ball as it wouldnt line up with the rules but can you not see my argument as to why im asking?

Thanks
Kleon

Barry Rhodes said...

Kleon,

You say, "My problem is, if it turns out my ball was just short of the red markers, i could play my 2nd sides ways and then my 3rd would be 100yards closer and the better option. But to make sure. I would have to walk to the markers, check where the ball ended up and then walk back." In this circumstance why did you not play a provisional ball before going forward to see whether your original ball was in the hazard, or not? You may always play a provisional unless you are certain that your original ball has come to rest in the hazard, or is out of bounds.

There are certain course situations where a Committee may make a Local Rule for a when a water hazard is of such character that, if the original ball cannot be found it is known or virtually certain that it is in the water hazard. I cover this subject in my blog dated 3rd February 2015, 'Ball Played Provisionally under Rule 26-1' Local Rule However, this is to be avoided if at all possible, because it can lead to confusion amongst members and guest players.

Barry

Kleon Koutsokostas said...

The reason i wouldnt hit a provisional before i went to look is because if the ball had gone into the hazard i would still have to go back to hit a 3rd as the provisional wouldnt be in play which us what im trying to avoid.

I was tryng to figure a way of playing a 3rd ball based on if the ball had gone into the harzard or lost, then that ball is in play to save time on going back. As this would cover me if the ball was lost, but it would be me also choosing the choice of going back if the ball had gone into the hazard. Preventing any reason to go back. It would also prevent the situation where if my ball didnt reach the red markers, i could play my original ball. From this the ball position would determine which ball and i wouldnt gain an advantage.

I understand it is rare and from the way you have explained the rules, this Is not allowed. But if the rules did accomodate this situation, it wouldnt give an advantage, it would only speed up play as all provisions are covered to save going back to the tee.

Thanks
Kleon

Barry Rhodes said...

Kleon,

Don't hold your breath! The Rules are unlikely to accomodate this rare situation that troubles you so much.

Barry

Kleon Koutsokostas said...

Your not wrong there barry.

Thanks for straighten out the rules for me, as now i know, the way i was trying to do it, even though its not allowed as of the rules, i wouldnt be gaining an advantage which helps my argument a touch with my buddies.👍🏼

Thanks