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Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball
Purpose of Rule: Rule 7 allows the player to take reasonable actions to fairly search for their ball in play after each stroke.
  • But the player still must be careful, as a penalty will apply if the player acts excessively and causes improvement to the conditions affecting their next stroke.
  • The player gets no penalty if the ball is accidentally moved in trying to find or identify it, but must then replace the ball on its original spot.
Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball

How to Fairly Search for Ball

Examples of Actions Unlikely to Be Part of a Fair Search
Examples of actions that are unlikely to be considered reasonable as part of a fair search, and will result in the general penalty if there is an improvement to conditions affecting the stroke, include:
  • Taking an action to flatten areas of grass beyond what is reasonably necessary to walk through or search for the ball in the area where the ball is thought to lie;
  • Purposely removing any growing thing from the ground; or
  • Breaking a tree branch to allow easier access to the ball when it could have been reached without doing so.

How to Identify Ball

Identifying Ball That Cannot Be Retrieved
If a player sees a ball in a tree or some other location where they are unable to retrieve the ball, the player may not assume that it is theirs but rather must identify it in one of the ways provided in Rule 7.2. This may be done even though the player is unable to retrieve the ball, such as by:
  • Using binoculars or a distance-measuring device to see a mark that definitely identifies it as the player's ball, or
  • Determining that another player or spectator saw the ball come to rest in that specific location after the player's stroke.

Ball Accidentally Moved in Trying to Find or Identify It

Estimating Original Spot on Which to Replace Ball Moved During Search
When a player's ball is accidentally moved during a search and its original spot where it must be replaced must be estimated, the player should consider all reasonably available evidence about where the ball was located before it was moved. For example, when estimating a ball's original spot, the player should consider:
  • How the ball was found (for example, whether it was stepped on, kicked or moved with a probing club or hand),
  • If it was visible or not, and
  • Its location relative to the ground and any growing objects, such as whether it was lying against or under the grass and how deep in the grass it was located.
In replacing the ball, the player is not required to replace loose impediments (such as leaves) that may have been moved since loose impediments are not part of the lie and, in many cases, it would be nearly impossible to reconstruct the original situation if loose impediments were required to be replaced. For example, while searching for a ball that is covered by leaves in a penalty area, the player kicks the ball and moves the leaves that were close to the ball. Although the ball must be replaced on its original or estimated spot, the leaves do not need to be put back in their original position even when the ball would certainly have been lying under the leaves.
Meaning of “Trying to Find”
In Rule 7.4 and Exception 2 of Rule 9.4 (Accidental Movement Before Ball is Found), there is no penalty if a ball is accidentally moved while “trying to find” it. “Trying to find” includes actions that can reasonably be considered part of searching for the ball, including the actions allowed by Rule 7.1 (How to Fairly Search for Ball). It does not include actions before a search begins such as walking to the area where the ball is expected to be. For example, a player’s ball is hit towards a wooded area. The player is not aware the ball has struck a tree and deflected back towards the teeing area. When the player is still some distance from the area where they believe the ball is likely to be and before starting to search, the player accidentally kicks their ball. Because this was not while trying to find the ball, the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b for accidentally moving their ball and must replace the ball.
Ball Moved When Search Temporarily Stopped
In Clarification 7.4/2, a player gets a penalty if the ball is moved when they are not trying to find it. However, if a player accidentally moves their ball when a search is temporarily stopped due to circumstances outside the player’s control, the player gets no penalty for moving the ball. For example:
  • The player stops searching for their ball to get out of the way of another group who is going to play through. While getting out of the way, the player accidentally moves their ball.
  • The Committee suspends play and the player begins to leave the area and accidentally steps on and moves their ball.