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Well out!: Lost Ball- Marker

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A few days ago, I received an interesting question which I had not thought about before. It is an instance I could not imagine would happen. Kindly read the question below:

“Having marked my ball on the green with a fairly transparent green marker I couldn’t find it when it came to my turn to putt. If I couldn’t find it within 5 minutes is it a lost ball situation?” one of my column followers asked.

I have to admit that I had to resort to the Decisions book to work out the answer to this seemingly simple query. Decision 20-1/5.5 does not deal with this exact circumstance, but I believe that the principle in the answer is relevant;

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  1. A player marked the position of his ball on the putting green and lifted the ball. When it was the player’s turn to play, he could not find his ball-marker. Subsequently, he found the ball-marker stuck to the sole of his shoe. He concluded that he had accidentally stepped on it while assisting his partner in lining up a putt. What is the ruling?
  2. The player incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 20-1 which requires that the position of a ball be marked before it is lifted, and contemplates that the ball-marker will remain in position until the ball is replaced. The player must place the ball as near as possible to its original position but not nearer the hole – Rule 20-3c.

Under the last paragraph of Rule 20-1, a player is exempt from penalty if his ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of lifting the ball or marking its position. In this case the ball-marker was not moved during such process.

So, returning to the original question, if the player cannot find their ball-marker they incur a penalty of one stroke and they must estimate where their ball was at rest before being marked and place the ball there, ensuring that it is not placed nearer to the hole. In other words, the player should err on the side of caution when estimating the place to replace their ball, to ensure that they are not taking an unfair advantage. Note that there is no five minute time allowance in The Rules relating to a player searching for a ball-marker. Depending on the circumstances, it is probable that a player who does spend several minutes looking for their ball-marker should incur the general penalty under Rule 6-7, for undue delay.

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