Rules Update by Cathy Neff, VSWGA Rules Chair
January 28, 2019
The bullet points below are Rule 7 highlights, please consult your 2019 USGA Rule book or App for the full description of Rule 7 and the definitions.
2019 Rules of Golf: Rule 7 –Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball
• Player no longer gets a penalty for improving conditions during a search so long as it happened while “fairly searching”
• No longer necessary to announce or involve others when lifting a ball for identification
• No longer a penalty if a ball is moved while searching or trying to identify it
Rule 7 –Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball
Purpose of Rule: Rule 7 allows the player to take reasonable actions to fairly search for his or her ball in play after each stroke.
- But the player still must be careful, as a penalty will apply if the player acts excessively and causes improvement to the conditions affecting his or her next stroke.
- The player gets no penalty if the ball is accidentally moved in trying to find or identify it, but must then replace the ball on its original spot.
7.1 How to Fairly Search for Ball
a. Player May Take Reasonable Actions to Find and Identify Ball
The player may fairly search for the ball by taking reasonable actions to find and identify it, such as:
- Moving sand and water, and
- Moving or bending grass, bushes, tree branches and other growing or attached natural objects, and also breaking such objects, but only if such breaking is a result of other reasonable actions taken to find or identify the ball.
- There is no penalty under Rule 8.1a if the improvement results from a fair search.
- But if the improvement results from actions that exceeded what was reasonable for a fair search, the player gets the general penalty for breach of Rule 8.1a.
b. What to Do If Sand Affecting Lie of Player’s Ball Is Moved While Trying to Find or Identify It
- The player must re-create the original lie in the sand, but may leave a small part of the ball visible if the ball had been covered by sand.
- If the player plays the ball without having re-created the original lie, the player gets the general penalty.
7.2 How to Identify Ball
A player’s ball at rest may be identified in any one of these ways:
- By the player or anyone else seeing a ball come to rest in circumstances where it is known to be the player’s ball.
- By seeing the player’s identifying mark on the ball (see Rule 6.3a).
- By finding a ball with the same brand, model, number and condition as the player’s ball in an area where the player’s ball is expected to be (but this does not apply if an identical ball is in the same area and there is no way to know which one is the player’s ball).
7.3 Lifting Ball to Identify It
If a ball might be a player’s ball but cannot be identified as it lies:
- The player may lift the ball to identify it (including by rotating it), but:
- The spot of the ball must first be marked, and the ball must not be cleaned more than needed to identify it (except on the putting green) (see Rule 14.1).
If the player lifts his or her ball under this Rule when not reasonably necessary to identify it (except on the putting greenwhere the player may lift under Rule 13.1b), fails to mark the spot of the ball before lifting it or cleans it when not allowed, the player gets one penalty stroke.
If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).
7.4 Ball Accidentally Moved in Trying to Find or Identify It
- If the ball was on, under or against any immovable obstruction, integral object, boundary object or growing or attached natural object, the ball must be replaced on its original spot on, under or against such object (see Rule 14.2c).
- If the ball was covered by sand, the original lie must be re-created and the ball must be replaced in that lie (see Rule 14.2d(1)). But the player may leave a small part of the ball visible when doing so.
Penalty for Breach of Rule 7.4: General Penalty.