How long can you take to set the ball?

You’ve been searching and now someone has found a ball. Is there a time limit to get there? The new 2023 rules of golf provided an answer

When is the right time to get to know your golf ball? Your answer may be different than mine and this basic ambiguity has made an important question in the rules of golf a little too vague for the R&A and USGA heads to stand by.

Let’s set the scene with an example. You are looking for your ball. One was found within three minutes of the search time but you’re not sure if it’s yours or not.

Rule 18.2a(1) states that you must attempt to identify it immediately and allows you “a reasonable time to do so, even if it occurs after the three-minute search time has expired”.

You are also allowed a reasonable amount of time to get to the ball if you are not in a position to find it. If you don’t, you will lose that ball.

This raised the inevitable question: “What is reasonable?” In the 2023 Rules of Golf, which take effect Jan. 1, chiefs have provided an answer.

It used to be up to the committees but there is a new clarification in rule 18 which now seems to put an end to it.

If your ball is found and identified within the three minute window, you can take “a lot of time during those three minutes to identify it”.

But what if you find that the clock is about to run out? “It is reasonable to allow a player up to one minute to become familiar with the ball,” the illustration states.

The illustration then provides two examples to give you an idea of ​​how this might work in the course.

The first one draws a picture of a ball found in a tree two and a half minutes after the start of the search. The player cannot immediately mark it as theirs – it is in a tree after all – and so the new rule states that it is “reasonable” to allow the player one minute to try and see if the ball is theirs.

“If a player is able to identify the ball within three minutes and 30 seconds after the start of the search, the ball is not lost.”

However, if they discover that the ball is not theirs after the three minutes have passed, that ball is now lost and there is no more time to search.

The second example is when the ball is found near the end of the three-minute search time but the player is not where that ball is.

You will be allowed a “reasonable time” to get to the location of the ball under Rule 18.2a(1) and then, once there, “up to one minute to identify it”.

More on the 2023 Rules of Golf update

We’ve painstakingly gone through every update to make sure you have everything you need to know about the biggest changes, from penalties at Stableford, snags on scorecards, online relief, and so much more.

The rules of golf podcast

Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin sit down to discuss the 2023 updates on the From the Clubhouse podcast.

Listen to the streamer below, or on your favorite podcast.

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