Our Rules of Golf videos produced in association with The R&A offer advice on a variety of Rules-related issues, with this particular one focusing on what happens if you are guilty of inadvertently moving your ball when searching for it.
Unless you are among that rare breed of golfer to never miss a fairway, at some stage in most rounds you will find yourself searching for your ball in rough of varying degrees of thickness.
While it may become more and more frustrating as the clock ticks on towards the end of the permitted five-minute search period and a lost ball begins to loom, it’s probably wise to keep that frustration in check a little, for if you do start thrashing about ever more frenetically with either foot or club and then move your ball in the process, you will only be adding to your frustration levels.
For unfortunately, if you, your partner or your caddie do stand on your ball, kick it, or hit it with a club while searching for it, you will be deemed to have moved your ball at rest (unless you could prove otherwise) in breach of Rule 18-2a, incurring a penalty of one stroke.
You would also be required to replace the ball, but as you are unlikely to know exactly where it was (you probably wouldn’t have moved it if you had) you would need to estimate the spot and drop it as near as possible to that spot, not nearer the hole.
The good news – if there is any – is that should you have moved the ball with your club while swishing about, that would not count as an additional stroke, as a stroke requires intention on your part to strike at and move the ball, rather than mere accidental contact.
Nevertheless, you would still be a stroke worse off with the penalty under Rule 18-2a, and possibly facing an unplayable ball if the lie was that bad that you couldn’t find it in the first place! so the moral of the tale is to exercise a degree of caution when searching for your ball to avoid making a potentially bad situation even worse!