Rule of the Month: Lost And Found
Rule 12-1 Seeing Ball; Searching for Ball
While searching for a ball seems simple, there are many opportunities for a golfer to breach a Rule inadvertently. A careless search may move the ball or even improve the lie of the ball or the area of stance or swing. Searching in a hazard adds a new level of precaution, but knowing what is permissible will make your search less daunting. Rule 12-1 covers permissible methods to search for a ball with several of the actions overriding other Rules and protecting the player from a penalty. Next month we will focus on the procedures used to identify a found ball (Rule 12-2).
- A player is always allowed to see his ball when making a stroke at it.
- Bending long grass or bushes to find a ball is allowed provided the action doesn’t improve the lie of the ball or the area of intended stance or swing and the ball is not moved.
- If a player believes his ball is covered by sand through the green (i.e., not in a bunker) he may move the sand in order to find the ball without the fear of penalty.
- A player believes his ball is covered with sand in a bunker. If he digs with a club to find his ball, he incurs a penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4 for touching the sand in a bunker with a club.
- Loose impediments in a water hazard must not be moved in order to find a ball.
- There is no penalty for moving your ball in play when searching for it in an area marked as ground under repair.
- A player may probe with her club in water in a water hazard in order to find her ball without the fear of penalty.
- A player searching for her ball in casual water in a bunker accidentally moves her ball. There is a one-stroke penalty for moving her ball in play but she may take relief without penalty from the casual water.
- While searching for his ball in high grass, through the green, the player moves a clump of grass and his ball moves vertically downward. There is no penalty since the movement occurred during the search.
- A player, in either match or stroke play, may help search for another player’s ball without fear of penalty for accidentally moving or touching the ball.
- False. At times a ball may be visible from one angle but obscured from the player’s view when the stance is taken. One example is when a ball in a bunker is covered with fallen leaves but visible from the side. Moving the leaves would result in a breach of Rule 13-4 for touching a loose impediment in a hazard when the ball lies in the same hazard.
- True. A player must use caution when searching for his ball. Carelessness may result in improving one or more of the areas covered by Rule 13-2. Also, there are times when accidentally moving the ball will not result in penalty but generally a breach of Rule 18-2 for moving the ball in play has occurred.
- True. Rule 12-1a allows a player to move sand anywhere on the course in order to find or identify a ball without the fear of penalty for moving the ball in play. If the ball is moved it must be replaced and the lie re-created.
- False. It is true that Rule 13-4 prohibits a player from touching the sand in a bunker with his club or hand. However, Rule 12-1a overrides Rule 13-4 in this circumstance allowing the player to probe and search in the sand with his hands, rake or clubs.
- False. Once again Rule 12 is going to override Rule 13. Under Rule 12-1b, if a player believes his ball is covered by loose impediments in the hazard he may remove the loose impediments in order to find or identify his ball. It is important to note that if the player’s ball is found and he chooses not to take relief from the water hazard, he must replace the loose impediments. If the ball was completely covered, he is allowed to leave a small part of the ball visible. The permission to move or touch loose impediments under this Rule is not without restriction. If the player accidentally causes his ball to move he incurs a penalty under Rule 18 (Ball at Rest Moved).
- True. This same principle applies when searching for a ball in an obstruction or any abnormal ground condition. The player may search in either condition without the fear of penalty for moving his ball in play. If the ball is accidentally moved, it must be replaced unless the player elects to take relief from the condition. See Rule 12-1d.
- True. Rule 12-1c overrides the prohibition in Rule 13-4 of touching the water in a water hazard with a hand or club when the ball lies in the same hazard. It allows the player to probe with a club, rake or otherwise. If she accidentally moves the ball when probing, there is no penalty provided the ball was in the water. The ball must be replaced or she may proceed under Rule 26 for water hazard relief. It is important to note that if the moved ball was not in the water, she would incur a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2 for moving her ball in play.
- False. See the answer to #6. Even though the abnormal ground condition (casual water) is in a hazard, the player is still allowed to search for the ball without the fear of penalty for moving the ball in play. If the ball is moved it must be replaced, unless the player elects to take relief from casual water under Rule 25.
- False. Under the definition of “moved,” a ball is considered to have moved if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other position. Therefore, a ball that falls vertically downward has moved and the player incurs a penalty for moving his ball in play. The fact that the movement occurred during search for the ball is irrelevant. None of the exceptions in Rule 12 apply in this situation and the player should always exercise caution when searching for his ball.
- True. When a ball is moved by either a fellow-competitor in stroke play or an opponent in match play there is no penalty provided that, in match play, the incident occurred during the search for the ball. The moved ball must be replaced unless another Rule applies, such as water hazard relief, and the player elects to proceed under that Rule.