You wouldn’t believe how many golfers still get it wrong, according to our Rules of Golf expert. So do you take it and make sure it’s yours? There’s more to locating your ball than meets the eye
“Hit hard, go find him and hit him again. Arnold Palmer knew what he was talking about. Why make golf more complicated than necessary?
In a game that’s played over such a large area, however, and with plenty of dangers and obstacles lurking for an errant shot, sometimes it’s not always so easy to locate your ball.
But the Rules of Golf have some tips in place to make it easier for you, to make sure you can correctly identify your ball and deal with what happens if you inadvertently move it while chasing it.
So let’s get into the magic and mysteries of Rule 7…
How do you find your ball?
It is your responsibility to find your ball in play each time you make a stroke. Most of the time, you will come across him directly.
If you find yourself tangled, however, there are a number of steps you can take in what’s called a “fair search” for the ball.
You can move sand and water, you can move and bend grass, bushes, tree branches and other “growing or attached natural objects”.
You can even break them. But the key here is that it is done within “reasonable actions” to find and identify the ball.
If so, you won’t get a penalty, even if what you do improves the conditions affecting the shot.
But if your actions aren’t reasonable, the general penalty — two strokes in stroke play and loss of the hole in match play — comes for a breach of Rule 8.1.
But what is unlikely to be reasonable? A interpretation of Rule 7.1a usefully gives you some examples. Suppose you break a tree branch when you could have hit the ball less intrusively, you’ll be in trouble if it improves the conditions for your next shot.
It’s a little different when it comes to locating a ball in the sand. Here, Rule 7.1b says you must recreate the original lie in the sand once you find it. You can leave a small part of the ball visible if it has been completely submerged.
Make sure that if you ever find yourself in this position, you recreate this lie. That’s the general penalty if you don’t.
How do you identify your golf ball?
This is where it helps if you have clearly put your own stamp on it with an identifying mark as this is irrefutable proof that the pearly white globe in front of you is your ball.
However, there are other ways to identify your ball and they are described in Rule 7.2.
The first is if you or someone else sees a ball come to rest in a position where it is known to be your ball.
Finding a ball of the same make, model, number and condition around where it should be will also do the trick, but – and this is why it helps mark your ball – if there’s an identical ball in the same area and you can’t tell them apart you’re a bit embarrassed.
Can you lift your ball to identify it?
This is the most important part of this little period education stay.
So far it’s all been pretty straightforward, but in my short time as a referee I’ve saved many players from falling for this one. Some of them were indeed playing with very low handicaps. It’s a rule club golfers stick with more than anything else and yet it’s so easy to avoid.
Here is. Turn your books into Rule 7.3. If you have come across a ball and you are not sure if it belongs to you, you can of course lift the ball to identify it. You can even rotate it.
But you must, must, MUST (repeat this until you can recite it from memory) first mark the location of the ball and you cannot clean it more than necessary to make sure that it belongs to you. Be sure to return it to its original location.
If you don’t mark that spot before lifting, or clean the ball when it’s not allowed, it’s a one-stroke penalty.
You also can’t just lift your ball in these circumstances whenever you want. Here’s the “reasonably necessary” bit again. If you pick it up and it was not reasonably necessary to identify it, a one-stroke penalty also awaits you. This is not the case, however, when your ball is on the putting green.
What if you accidentally moved your ball while trying to find it?
We’ve all done this one – cut into a deep cabbage area and, oops, we accidentally started the ball and moved it.
There is no penalty here. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you moved it, your opponent did if it’s match play or whoever else. If the ball is accidentally moved while trying to find or identify it, simply return it to its original spot and continue.
You have to do that last bit. If you play it from a place where you accidentally moved, kicked or knocked it down, you have played from a wrong place and you add the general penalty to your scoreboard.
What if you didn’t know where this place was? Use your best guess. Rule 7.4 says if you don’t know the original location of the ball, you estimate.