Purpose: Rule 7 allows you to take reasonable actions to fairly search for your ball in play after each stroke.
But you must be careful, as a penalty will apply if you act excessively and cause improvement to the conditions affecting your next stroke.
You get no penalty if your ball is accidentally moved in trying to find or identify it, but you must then replace the ball on its original spot.
Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball
How to Fairly Search for Ball
You May Take Reasonable Actions to Find and Identify Ball
You 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.
If taking such reasonable actions as part of a fair search improves the conditions affecting the stroke there is no penalty. But if the improvement results from actions that exceeded what was reasonable for a fair search, you get the general penalty.
What to Do If Sand Affecting Lie of Your Ball Is Moved While Trying to Find or Identify It
You 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 you play the ball without having re-created the original lie, you get the general penalty.
How to Identify Your Ball
You may identify your ball by seeing it come to rest or seeing your identifying mark on the ball.See Full RulesFor more information on how your ball may be identified.
Lifting Your Ball to Identify It
If a ball might be yours but you cannot identify it as it lies, you may lift the ball to identify 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).If the lifted ball is your ball or another player's ball, it must be replaced on its original spot.If you lift your ball when not reasonably necessary to identify it, fail to mark the spot of the ball before lifting it or clean it when not allowed, you get one penalty stroke.Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 7.3: General Penalty.
Ball Accidentally Moved in Trying to Find or Identify It
There is no penalty if your ball is accidentally moved by you, your opponent or anyone else while trying to find or identify it.If this happens, the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated). In doing so:
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.
If the ball was covered by sand, the original lie must be re-created and the ball must be replaced in that lie. You may leave a small part of the ball visible if the ball had been covered by sand.