In January 2019 a new set of golf rules will come into play and the 5 minute golf ball search time will be scrapped. From the 1st January onwards, golfers will only have 3 minutes to look for a lost ball in a bid to speed up the game.
Trying to find a lost ball can be a desperate situation and even with 5 minutes to look, panic can soon set in. So, with the new rule in mind, what can you do which will help when trying to find a lost ball?
The first thing to do is keep calm. Your ball is there somewhere, it has not vanished into thin air, so you know it is in the area you are looking. There is nothing more to it than that, so why get worked up about the situation?
When you see your ball heading towards deep rough or bushes, pick out a point in the distance you can use for reference. It could be a tree, plant or building but make a note of it and use it to guide you when you try and find it.
Listen for when the ball lands in the bushes or trees for any sound which may be significant. If you hear the ball hit something solid, it may have come off a tree trunk which means the possibility of a deflection away from the entry point.
Use your judgement in regards the to the club you used, the quality of contact with the ball and the wind direction/speed to estimate how far the ball travelled. This will allow you to start looking in the right area immediately.
If you feel there is a good chance you will not find it, announce you are going to play a provisional ball. When you do this, tell those you are playing with what the make and number is on the ball. Even if you think you have an outside chance of finding your ball, you will be glad you have played a provisional if you don’t.
All of the tips above are things you can do immediately after hitting the ball. Do not turn away in disappointment if the ball is heading away from the fairway, keep your wits about you and follow the tips above.
Having reached where you believe the ball to be, announce the time to your playing partners and that way there will be no dispute. Keep your search area to within 10 yards of where you think the ball landed and work up and down in a methodical manner, ensuring you are not treading down plants and damaging the area needlessly.
Finally, make a clear announcement if you have found the ball but if it is still lost after 4 minutes, soon to be 2 minutes in January, shout the time and have one last look before moving to play your provisional ball.