How to find a lost golf ball

Making the most of your five minutes of panic - soon to be three as of 2019. 

Andy Roberts's picture
Thu, 8 Jun 2017


So you’re on the final tee, you’ve got a good score going and it’s a demanding tee shot.

There’s out of bounds left, thick rough and trees on the right and the carry to the fairway has to clear some dodgy scrub land and a sadistically-placed bunker.

It’s a tough drive even in a social fourball, let alone in a medal round.

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Chances are to avoid OB and the trap you’ll err on the right side and hit a power fade into the right rough. You see it land but don’t see it finish.

"Please God, don’t let it be lost," you say to yourself. 

You’ve got five minutes to find it - soon to be three minutes with the impending 2019 changes.

How do you give yourself the best chance of retrieving the situation within the time the Rules of Golf allow


How to find a lost golf ball


1. Don’t panic – it’s there somewhere, be positive. Just think ‘when’ you find it, not ‘if.’

2. If there’s time during it’s ball flight you will, hopefully, have made a mental note of a landmark – tree, a bush, a building in the distance against which you can get a bearing. Keep your eyes on it, draw a direct line in your mind.

3. Listen for any tell-tale signs of birds suddenly escaping from the trees, or for solid contact in branches that may have deflected the ball.

4. Ideally from the quality of the strike and the direction of the wind you will know roughly how far it has travelled as you walk towards the general area.

5. If there’s a chance you might not find it, announce, (also naming maker a number of the ball), that you are playing a provisional ball. This will save time and avoid having to trudge mortified back to the tee if you are unsuccessful with your search.