How Long Have You Got To Search For Your Golf Ball And Can You Declare Your Ball Lost - Golf Rule 18.2a

Golf Rule 18 covers how long you have to search for your ball under the general heading: Stroke-And-Distance Relief, Ball Lost, or Out of Bounds, Provisional Ball.

Rule 18.1 specifies that you can take stroke-and-distance relief at any time by adding one penalty stroke to your score and playing the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made.

It is this act - of playing another stroke with a new ball - that effectively "loses" your original ball. You cannot declare your original ball lost.

How long have you got to search for your ball?
Rule 18.2a states clearly that a ball is lost if not found in three minutes after the player or their caddie begins to search for it.

The rule goes on to say that you are allowed a reasonable about of time to get to your ball after the three minute search time has ended or to get to the ball to identify it if you are not near it when it is found.

As you can see, it is very important that you use the full three minutes when searching for your golf ball - and that is exactly what Pocket Timer enables you to do.

Can you declare your golf ball lost while searching for it?
No! There is no rule that allows you to state that your ball is lost. You can effectively make it lost by hitting another ball from where you previous stroke was made and not declaring the new ball as a provisional ball.

If you have already started looking for your ball without hitting another ball, you cannot just say "I'm going to declare it lost." It is the act of hitting another ball without declaring it a provisional that "loses" the first ball and brings the second ball into play.

If you have hit a provisional ball and have started searching for your original ball, you still cannot say "I'm going to declare it lost." It is the act of hitting your provisional ball a second time to move it past where the original ball is thought to be that "loses" the first ball and brings the provisional ball into play.

This is an important distinction because your playing partners - who may well be your opponents - can look for your ball if they want to. So if they think they might find your ball in a more disadvantageous place, they may well take the full three minutes of search time... maybe they'll have a Pocket Timer too.