Today I begin a series about the rules of golf. Now that I have a full season of truly passable golf under my belt I am able to look at the game with a more seasoned eye. Golf’s little details like etiquette, rules, things of that nature, swim around in my mind constantly.
In so doing, there are things that bug me – like how people don’t follow the rules and still post their scores. I don’t think the infractions are intentional, I just think in many cases rules are fuzzy. And to read the USGA official rules of golf booklet makes the rules about as clear as mud. That publication has the overall readability of a legal brief or summary of hard science data.
Today I’d like to look at the oft-occurring and very unfortunate lost ball scenario. I examine this situation first because a few days ago I golfed with a couple of guys in the men’s club at my home course. Though I don’t know for certain, I can only assume that on that day they played to post scores. I joined them on their back nine.
On at least two of the holes, balls were hit and not found by one or both of these fellas. In neither case was out of bounds an issue. The balls just vanished within bounds. So in every case, they dropped a ball in the area where the ball was lost and added one stroke. What would be a par without a lost ball became bogey. Is this correct?
Yes and no.
Yes, the penalty is one stroke but neither of those players put their replacement balls back into play properly. A lost ball works the same way as out of bounds. You are penalized a stroke plus the distance you gained by the ball that disappeared. The new ball must be hit from back where you originally hit the shot that got lost – or as close to it as possible.
In other words, you don’t just drop a ball and take a stroke.
In the case of a tee shot lost, you count the first tee shot that got lost, add the penalty stroke, go back and tee it up all over again – in which case you are hitting three*. Best advice: if you even slightly suspect your ball may be lost, hit a provisional, whether it is your tee shot or second shot from the fairway.
So those nice little bogeys on the card were really double bogeys if the hole played two to get on with a two putt on a par four. I kept my mouth shut but it was difficult to do so. In the ladies club I would have been all over it.
- Here is the rule from the USGA book:
c. Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes
If a ball is lost as a result of not being 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, the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5).