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 Playing it by the book

Ashley Weller examines the details of Rule 27-1 concerning a ‘Lost Ball’

Lost Ball – Rule 27-1
By definition a ball is deemed lost if:

It is not found or indentified as his by the player within 5 minutes after the player’s side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it; or The player has made a stroke at a provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or a point nearer the hole than that place (Rule 27-2b); or The player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance under Rule 26-1a, 27-1 or 28a; or

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 (Rule 18-1), is in an obstruction (24-3), is in an abnormal ground condition (25-1c) or is in a water hazard (26-1b or c); or The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball.

Quite a list there, but can you see anywhere that a ball is deemed lost if a player declares it to be lost? Well, it’s not there, because a player cannot declare his ball lost by declaration, and it’s among the most misunderstood Rules of all. So, if you hit your ball into trouble and do not want to find it, simply declaring to your fellow-competitor (s) or opponent that your ball is lost is not enough; you must put another ball into play by complying with b) or c) above. This is confirmed in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf under Decision 27/16;

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 his ball lost by declaration – see Definition Lost Ball – Rule 27-1 By definition a ball is deemed lost if: of “Lost Ball”. The original ball remained in play... If a ball is found the player is required to identify the ball to determine whether it is his. If he dishonestly refuses to identify his ball his opponent or fellow-competitior may refer the dispute to the Committee (Rule 34-3). In such a case the Committee would be justified in imposing a penalty of disqualification under Rule 33-7. (Decision 27/13).

A player is allowed five minutes to search for and identify his ball. If he finds his ball in two minutes then loses it again, he has three minutes left to find it again (Decision 27/3). If a ball is found but the player cannot identify it until after the five-minute period has elapsed it is not a ‘lost ball’ as the player is allowed enough time to reach the ball and identify it (Decision 27/5.5).

If the player finds his ball after the five-minute search period has expired and plays it he is in trouble. The ball was lost and therefore out of play once the five-minute period elapsed. Therefore when the player made a stroke at the ball he played a wrong ball and would lose the hole in match play or suffer a two stroke penalty in stroke play under Rule 15-3 and would be disqualified if he did not correct the error by proceeding under Rule 27-1 before playing from the next tee as set out in Rule 15-3b (Decision 27/8).

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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