Should You Always Help Search For A Playing Partner’s Ball?

Is it always necessary, does courtesy always demand it?

Should You Always Help Search For Your Playing Partner's Golf Ball?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Golf Monthly regulars Fergus Bisset and Jeremy Ellwood debate whether or not you should be expected to join the hunt every single time.

Should You Always Help Search For Your Playing Partner’s Golf Ball?

Yes says Fergus Bisset

I’m not a religious person but I do agree with the odd line from the bible and one I always try to keep in mind is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

That makes good sense and it applies to every aspect of life… Even when it comes to the question of whether you should always look for your playing partner’s golf ball!

If I’ve lost a ball, I will (almost always) want to find it and two pairs of eyes are better than one.

I would expect my playing partner to help me in the search and, as such, I would always endeavour to help them.

It’s not an onerous task and now even less so, with maximum searching time reduced to three minutes.

Even if someone is having a terrible day and shelling every other drive into the knee-high cabbage, it won’t take much of your time to have a supportive stomp around searching.

It may be tiresome, but it’s good for the soul.

And, in terms of pace of play, your assistance could keep things moving.

If the person whose ball is lost spends the allotted time looking for it then you will have to wait anyway.

If you go and help, you might find it and play can keep moving, it might even prevent the dreaded walk back.

As I said, two pairs of eyes are better than one.

Even if you’re frustrated at having to trudge around in the hay for a fifth time in seven holes, you can and should do it.

Sometimes we have to do things in life we don’t want to and helping someone out is the right thing to do.

You might be tired at the end of the day but at least you can still feel good about yourself.

Should You Always Help Search For Your Playing Partner’s Golf Ball?

No says Jeremy Ellwood

Should You Always Help Search For Your Playing Partner's Golf Ball?

Should You Always Help Search For Your Playing Partner's Golf Ball?

The key word here is ‘always’, for nearly every golfer knows that it’s courteous to help those you’re playing with search for their balls when they’ve strayed from the short grass, on the unwritten understanding that they will do likewise when you’re in trouble.

I’ve played with relatively few golfers over the years who have failed to do this, but I do know that on the odd occasion that it has happened it has certainly rankled a little, especially when I’ve had a decent score going.

So how can I possibly be arguing against such good, commonly accepted practice?

Well, as with most things in life, there has to be a limit, especially at a time when “pace of play” is the buzz phrase on the lips of nearly everyone in golf.

I know that if I’m spraying it around into the deep stuff on every other hole, and the handicap and more has long since been used up, I will say to my playing companions after a few searches: “Don’t worry about me. You concentrate on your own games – my score’s already gone.”

I have to admit, I very much hope that they would do likewise.

None of us is playing for the crown jewels after all, and surely the more pressing requirement is the continued enjoyment of most playing (and following) rather than an unreasonable expectation that everyone should conduct repeated painstaking searches every time you’re unable to keep it on the straight and narrow.

Does that make me a bad person?

I don’t think so and hope you would agree that common sense should apply on those more extreme days when someone you’re playing with has simply left home without a golf game.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?