Ball search time has been reduced to three minutes plus there are a couple of other changes in this category

New Golf Rules Explained: Searching For Your Ball

The Rules of Golf have changed, and here we look at the changes regarding searching for strayed golf balls.

Three key things have changed on the ball-search front from 2019…

New Golf Rules Explained: Searching For Your Ball –

Ball search time


You are allowed five minutes to search for your ball before it must be deemed lost and you go back to play again under penalty of stroke and distance.

From 2019

The search time is being reduced to three minutes.

The pace of play is the main reason, with the added hope that it will also encourage people to play provisional balls more often to reduce the risk of having to do the long walk back.

Ball moved during search


If you move your ball when searching for it, you will generally incur a one-stroke penalty and must then drop it to return it to play if the exact original spot is unknown.

From 2019

There will be no penalty for such accidental movement and the ball must be replaced in its original spot and lie, which must be estimated if the exact spot is not known.

Previously, there is a bit of a disincentive for the player to search too thoroughly because of the risk of a penalty that wouldn’t apply to others searching were to move the ball accidentally.

Replacing rather than dropping will ensure the player faces the original lie, rather than potentially benefiting from a better lie.

Lifting ball to identify or inspect it


If you wish to lift your ball to identify or inspect it, you must advise your opponent of fellow competitor of your intentions and allow them to observe the marking, lifting and replacing.

From 2019

You will no longer have to announce your intention to mark and lift your ball to another person, but will still be penalised if you do so without good reason.

One of golf’s most commonly broken Rules has been softened a little but those guilty of simply bending down and picking their ball up to identify it should still be aware of their obligation under the Rules to first mark the ball before lifting it.

Many do not currently do this.

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