Knowing how best to search for a lost golf ball will save you shots, money and stress – just the kind of win-win-win scenario all golfers yearn for
Few things increase the golfer’s stress and anxiety levels more than the uncertainty of whether or not they’re going to find a stray golf ball, especially late in the round with a good score going, where everything possible must be done to try to prevent the untimely loss of two shots.
Giving yourself the best chance when searching for a lost ball is a triple win scenario, for not only will it alleviate that stress (is there a better feeling in golf than finally finding your ball as the clock ticks on and hope seems to be fading?), but it will also save you from the stroke and distance penalty of trudging back to the tee or where you last played from (effectively two shots), and a pretty penny too if you’re playing premium golf balls like the Titleist Pro V1 at £3 to £4 a pop.
So how should you go about the search for a lost golf ball? These six essentials will increase your chances of success…
1) Don’t turn away in disgust
This may sound obvious, but how often do golfers fail to follow this clear-cut number one priority when it comes to finding errant golf balls?
Wheeling away in “tour disgust” as your ball veers away left or right may be an automatic reaction, but try to resist it, for if you can’t then pick up the ball’s flight as you suddenly remember you’re going to need to find it, you could be in big trouble.
Tour pros have the benefit of caddies for whom finding their boss’s ball is of mutually beneficial interest, and if you make too much of a song and dance over your disgust, there is a danger that you may distract playing partners or fellow competitors from following your ball too keenly too.
2) Concentrate hard
How keenly you follow your ball’s flight will have a significant bearing on your chances of success.
So always follow the flight as closely as humanly possible for any tell-tale signs whatsoever: Did you see it down? How high did it bounce? Which tree or bush did it land closest too?
If that means running to the end of the tee to give you a better view as the ball disappears round the corner, don’t be embarrassed to do that either.
3) Be realistic
You may be as long as the people you are playing with, but if you’ve hit a high cut into the right-hand rough, or a low-running hook that hits the left-hand rough early without the benefits of any fairway run, there is no point searching up where your fellow-competitors’ balls are lying in the fairway.
Golfers all too often refuse to accept that mishits or poor ball flights go nowhere near as far as normal.
4) Get your fellow-competitors onside
No-one else is going to look for your ball overly enthusiastically if you’re seen as someone reluctant to venture into the rough and help when they have strayed offline.
So show willing when the call arises, and your fellow-competitors will be far more inclined to reciprocate as and when required later in the round.
Three pairs of eyes are always better than one!
5) Don’t thrash about wildly
Yes, it may be tempting to thrash about ever more frenetically with club or feet as frustration and anxiety levels increase.
But remember that should your ball happen to be where those thrashing clubs or feet are flailing about, and you move it as a result, you will be penalised for moving your ball at rest… which will only add to your anger and stress levels.
6) Patrol the search area both ways
Only walking in one direction as you search will not optimise your chances, as the ball may be easier to spot one way than the other depending on where the sun is, how the grass is lying and so on.
A well thought-out search operation, patrolling the target area up and down in a fairly regimented fashion, will yield better results.
Follow these six steps, and you will give yourself a better chance of finding your errant shots.
But there will always be times when your chances of success are very slim (knee-high bund 30 yards off line, for example) and others where it may be prudent not to waste too much time searching. For example, if you’ve hit your first ball deep into the jungle, from where just getting it back in play will be fraught with difficulty and danger, do you really want to find it if your provisional is sitting pretty in position A?
You might not be able to declare your ball lost in words, but your actions can certainly make your intentions pretty clear, though there is nothing in the Rules to stop your opponent continuing the search.
And if you do find yourself searching for lost balls too often, we would suggest investing in one of three things…
1) an extending ball retriever; 2) a Golden Retriever – or other pooch – with a well-trained nose for sniffing out Pro V1s; or better still 3) lessons with a PGA pro to help iron out the swing faults underlying that perpetually destructive slice!