Purpose: 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.
Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball
How to Fairly Search for Ball
Examples of Actions Unlikely to Be Part of a Fair Search
Examples of actions that are unlikely to be considered reasonable as part of a fair search, and will result in the general penalty if there is an improvement to conditions affecting the stroke, include:
Taking an action to flatten areas of grass beyond what is reasonably necessary to walk through or search for the ball in the area where the ball is thought to lie;
Purposely removing any growing thing from the ground; or
Breaking a tree branch to allow easier access to the ball when it could have been reached without doing so.
How to Identify Ball
Identifying Ball That Cannot Be Retrieved
If a player sees a ball in a tree or some other location where he or she is unable to retrieve the ball, the player may not assume that it is his or hers but rather must identify it in one of the ways provided in Rule 7.2.This may be done even though the player is unable to retrieve the ball, such as by:
Using binoculars or a distance-measuring device to see a mark that definitely identifies it as the player's ball, or
Determining that another player or spectator saw the ball come to rest in that specific location after the player's stroke.
Ball Accidentally Moved in Trying to Find or Identify It
Estimating Original Spot on Which to Replace Ball Moved During Search
When a player's ball is accidentally moved during a search and its original spot where it must be replaced must be estimated, the player should consider all reasonably available evidence about where the ball was located before it was moved.For example, when estimating a ball's original spot, the player should consider:
How the ball was found (for example, whether it was stepped on, kicked or moved with a probing club or hand),
If it was visible or not, and
Its location relative to the ground and any growing objects, such as whether it was lying against or under the grass and how deep in the grass it was located.
In replacing the ball, the player is not required to replace loose impediments (such as leaves) that may have been moved since loose impediments are not part of the lie and, in many cases, it would be nearly impossible to reconstruct the original situation if loose impediments were required to be replaced.For example, while searching for a ball that is covered by leaves in a penalty area, the player kicks the ball and moves the leaves that were close to the ball. Although the ball must be replaced on its original or estimated spot, the leaves do not need to be put back in their original position even when the ball would certainly have been lying under the leaves.
Player Attempts to Dislodge Ball in Tree or Step on Ball in Tall Grass During Search
If a ball is accidentally moved when a player is trying to find or identify it, Rule 7.4 applies, and the ball must be replaced on the estimated spot without penalty.This Rule also applies in situations when the player is attempting to find the ball and takes reasonable actions that are likely to reveal the ball's location by moving it.Example of these reasonable actions include when the player:
Believes his or her ball has come to rest in a tree and shakes the tree hoping to dislodge and find the ball, or
Is walking through long grass while sweeping his or her feet back and forth hoping to step on or move the ball to find it.