Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Searching for a Ball

Questions from the floor that are asked during my presentations on the Rules, often relate to searching for a ball that may be lost. Here are some relevant points on this subject;

•    A player does not have to search for their own ball if they would rather not find it, e.g. when their original ball is likely to be deep in a gorse bush and their provisional ball is in the middle of the fairway.
•    If a player requests fellow competitors not to search for their ball it is poor etiquette, but not a breach of any Rule, for them to then go and look for the ball. However, this is not the case in match play, when an opponent may decide that they could benefit by finding the player’s original ball.
•    In match play, if an opponent does go to search for a player’s original ball, e.g. because the provisional ball is lying close to the hole, the player may quickly move to their provisional ball and putt it into the hole. As soon as they do so, they have rendered the original ball lost, even if it is subsequently found within 5 minutes of search beginning for it. Although the opponent may then recall this putt played out of turn (Rule 10-1c), it would not change the status of the original ball, which was lost as soon as the provisional ball was played from a position nearer to the hole (Decision 27-2b/1).
•    If a player’s ball is found within the five-minute search period, but because they are some distance away they are unable to make a positive identification within this time limit, it is not a lost ball, even though the identification takes place after the five-minute search period has elapsed (Decision 27-5/5).
•    A player may not return to where they last played from to play a provisional ball while fellow competitors continue to search for their original ball. Once the player has gone forward to search, say 50 yards from where they played from, any ball that they return to play becomes their ball in play as soon as they make a stroke at it, under penalty of stroke and distance, even if they wrongly announce it as being a provisional ball (Decision 27-2a/1.5).
•    Following on from the last point, once a player has dropped a ball with the intention of playing under penalty of stroke and distance, that ball is in play and the original ball is lost, even though no stroke has been made at it before the original ball is found within five minutes of search starting for it (Decision 27-1/2). The situation is slightly different if the ball was played from the teeing ground, as a ball may be teed up and addressed, but is not in play until a stroke has been made at it.
•    If a player knows that their ball has definitely come to rest in an area of ground under repair, casual water or any other abnormal ground condition, they do not have to search for it, they may take relief without penalty, using the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the abnormal ground condition as the reference point for dropping their ball (Rule 25-1c).
•    In stroke play, there is no penalty when a player accidentally moves the ball of a fellow competitor, but in match play an opponent does incur a penalty of one stroke, unless they were searching for it when they accidentally moved it. In every situation where a ball is accidentally moved it must be replaced (Rule 18-3a).
•    A player is permitted a total of five minutes to search for their ball. So if they find their ball after a two-minute search, leave the area to get a club and are then unable to find it, they have three more minutes to search before it is lost (Decision 27/3).
•    A player is allowed five minutes to search for their original ball and five more minutes to search for their provisional ball, unless the two balls are so close together that, in effect, both balls would be searched for simultaneously, when a total of five minutes is allowed for both balls (Decision 27/4).
•    A player may search for a lost ball after putting another ball into play, but must not play the first ball if they find it and must not unduly delay play while searching for it (Decision 27/9).

Mel Reid plays Fourball on Her Own
England's Mel Reid took on Japan's Haru Nomura and Mika Miyazato on her own in the fourballs at the UL International Crown. The circumstances were that Reid’s fourball partner, Charley Hull, was being treated for asthma and fever in an ambulance near the clubhouse at the Merit Club in Gurnee, Illinois. She was strongly advised to rest and not to play. Despite having only one shot to Japan's two, Mel Reid took the match to the 18th hole, before the Japanese eventually won, 1-up.

Rule 30-3a, Representation of Side, is the relevant Rule; 
A side may be represented by one partner for all or any part of a match; all partners need not be present. An absent partner may join a match between holes, but not during play of a hole.
999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf
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Good golfing,


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Anonymous said...

Interesting rules situation occurred on the second day of the UL Championship during a USA four ball match with Thailand. On the 260 yard Par 4 one of the Thai ladies had hit into the water guarding the green. As she was preparing to take a drop/play her third shot one of the Americans had the referee evaluate the relative position of the ball in the water with respect to the position of the Americans' balls, and he agreed the Americans had the right to play first (since order of play isn't based on ball position after relief). Pros always say they want to play first to put pressure on their opponents, but in this case it looked more like a case of "freezing the kicker" (as in American football). Neither American chipped close to the pin, but the other Thai pushed her chip from just off the green well past the pin and didn't make the comeback; so the Americans won the hole with a long birdie putt

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, this is a little known quirk of the Rules; it is easier to understand if the ball in the water hazard is not at rest in deep water and in a position where a player may choose to play it as it lies. The order of play is determined by where the player's balls are at rest, even if one of them is obviously going to have to drop, under penalty of one stroke, 100 yards further away, becauses that is where their ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.


Unknown said...

Had an difficult lost ball issue in a stableford yesterday. I hit a tee shot over some trees where a player in the following group was standing. I called fore and assumed that the ball had gone over and 50yrds beyond him to an area I knew to be clear. When we got there we could not find my ball so I returned to the tee where the following player told me that he knew exactly where my ball was as it had dropped at his feet and was clearly visible. He had assumed that, when I called fore, I had seen it drop and he had not said anything as he thought we had been searching for someone elses ball. As more that 5 minutes had elapsed and not knowing if my ball had been 'lost' or not I played another ball from the tee (mistakenly calling it a provisional and not a second ball under the rules). When we walked up to my original ball my fellow competitors were insistent that I could not play it as time had elapsed. Was my original ball 'lost' as I see from a 2015 post(ball in tree) that a ball is not lost if a spectator has seen it travel and come to rest. If it was lost I should have continued to play my second ball. If not - would I have been penalised for continuing with the first ball having played a 'wrong ball' by hitting my' provisional; and not calling it a second ball?

Barry Rhodes said...


Your original ball was lost as soon as the permitted 5 minutes for search passed. It is not relevant that someone else saw where it landed but did not inform you. As you state, after you have gone forward to search for a ball you may not then return to where you last played from and play a provisional ball. The second ball was in play as soon as you made a stroke at it, even if you had wrongly announced it as a provisional ball. So, the second ball was the ball in play and the original ball was lost under the Rules, even though it was subsequently found. The Decision you refer to is not relevant as the ball was found through the testimony of a spectator and identified by the player within 5 minutes, so it was not lost.

You would have been penalised for playing a wrong ball if you had played your original ball after the second ball had been put in play. In Stableford this would only disqualify you from the hole, but in a strokes competition this would have incurred a disqualification penalty.

I recommend that you check out my short video on 'Playing a Provisional Ball' at www.RhodesRulesSchool.com; click on the 'Instructional Videos' tab and scroll down.


Nicky Whitton said...

Hi Barry, Can you please confirm if you return to play a ball from where you took your previous shot, assuming your ball is lost, but your playing partners find it, within the 5 mins, and call you whilst you are walking back prior to you hitting another ball, you are able to continue play with your original ball. A colleague has told me that as soon as you walk back you have declared the ball lost. Is that correct?

Barry Rhodes said...


No that is not right! The original ball remains in play until 5 minutes have passed since search for it began, or another ball is put into play. So, if the ball is found in bounds before the player reaches the teeing ground they must continue play with it, even if they deem it to be in an unplayable position. However, if they play a ball from where they last played from before the original ball is found they must continue with that ball.

Incidentally, a player cannot declare their ball lost, see my blog dated, 20th April, 2010.