Is My Ball in There?

Much of Rule 12, Searching for and Identifying Ball, remains intact from the recent revision for 2012-2015. However, there has been one particular change to the Rule that you should know about. Let’s take a closer look.

Prior to 2012, if your ball lay in a hazard believed to be covered with loose impediments and you caused it to move while searching, there was no penalty. Not anymore!

You still have the authority to touch and move the loose impediments in order to find and identify your ball without penalty. However, if the ball moves as a result of you moving those loose impediments, you now will incur a penalty of one stroke and are required to replace the ball under Rule 18-2a. Moral of the story, be careful in moving those loose impediments.  

If you do go ahead and move the loose impediments and manage to find and identify your ball without moving it, you are required to replace the loose impediments. The Rule gets a little more lenient in the replacing of the loose impediments. If you cause your ball to move in the replacement of the loose impediments, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.

If the ball was entirely covered by loose impediments before you began searching, you are required to re-cover the ball with the loose impediments but you are permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.

In this same scenario, if someone else (an opponent in match play, a fellow competitor in stroke play or another outside agency such as a spectator or referee) other than your partner causes your ball to move that was in a hazard and covered by loose impediments while searching, there is no penalty and you are responsible for getting the ball back to where it lay originally. They cause it to move – no penalty; you cause it to move – penalty. Second moral of the story, be kind to the people you play with so that they will help you look for your ball.

In the overall picture, the Rules scenarios for penalties are now the same for searching for a ball when it’s covered by loose impediments whether it lies through the green or in a hazard. That makes sense. Why would you be off the hook when your ball moved while you were searching for it while it was covered with leaves in a bunker but be penalized when it was covered by leaves in the rough?

My suggestion to the Rules makers, make them both non-penalty situations. That way people won’t be as “careful” when searching and can spend more time playing!

Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.

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