Here is an interesting question that I recently received on my blog site:
RULES OF GOLF QUESTION:
I’m confused over you saying that you cannot declare your ball lost. If it is reasonable to assume that it is not in a hazard or out of bounds, I was under the assumption that you could declare it lost without looking for it? And I actually thought Phil Mickelson did this once in a tournament?
So I play ball A and it’s so far in some junk that I know unplayable lie relief would get me no-where. So without looking for ball A, I declare that I’m hitting a provisional for my lost ball. I like my position of ball B and declare on the tee that ball A is lost. Are you saying I breached a rule, and if so — could you point me to something more than the definition of Lost Ball? Because I looked there, and didn’t come to the same conclusion.
RULES OF GOLF ANSWER:
“First, let me say that this is a common area of confusion amongst golfers. But please believe me that nothing a player says will render their ball lost. Decision 27/6 from the Rules of Golf helps to clarify this statement;
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 a ball lost by a declaration — see Definition of “Lost Ball.” The original ball remained in play — see Definition of “Ball in Play.”
You were right to look at the definition of ‘Lost Ball’ because this lists the only circumstances that a ball can be lost;
A ball is deemed “lost” if:
a. It is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it; or
b. The player has made a stroke at a provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place (see Rule 27-2b); or
c. The player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 27-1a); or
d. 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 (see Rule 18-1), is in an obstruction (see Rule 24-3), is in an abnormal ground condition (see Rule 25-1c) or is in a water hazard (see Rule 26-1); or
e. The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball. Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search.
Of course, the correct thing to do if you definitely do not want to search for your original ball is to put another ball into play as quickly as possible, without declaring it as a provisional ball. As soon as you have done this, under penalty of stroke and distance, it does not matter if the original ball is found, as it is no longer in play.
I hope that this has clarified the lost ball situation for you.
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