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2019 rules changes to know: How much time you have to search for a ball

December 17, 2018

On Jan. 1, more than 30 changes to the Rules of Golf — some small, others significant — will take effect. To get you ready, this holiday season GOLF.com is rolling out a series, “The 12 Days of Rules Changes,” to ensure you always play by the rules, starting with your opening round of the year.

The Topic: Time to search for a lost ball

In the scenario where you don’t find the fairway and, even worse, can’t immediately find your ball, there is an allotted time where you can search for it before the ball is deemed lost.

The Old Rule: Players can search for their ball for up to five minutes before it is deemed lost.

The New Rule: Players can search for up to three minutes before their ball is deemed lost.

Why It Was Changed: Pace of play. The amount of time it takes to play a round of golf is at the core of many rules changes. This one is likely the most transparently tied to shorter rounds.

Will It Be Controversial? Hopefully not! According to the USGA, “if the ball is going to be found, it will be found in the first three minutes.” Potential for controversy begins when players fail to hit a provisional ball whenever their ball is possibly lost.

How It Can Help You: Pace of play. One of the goals of this rule is to guide players toward hitting more provisional shots if their ball is possibly lost. More provisionals, it has been determined, will cut down on the amount of time spent searching for lost balls.