Examples of actions that are unlikely to be considered reasonable as part of a fair search, and will result in the general penaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. if there is an improvement: to conditions affecting the strokeConditions Affecting the Stroke: The lie of the player’s ball at rest, the area of intended stance, the area of intended swing, the line of play and the relief area where the player will drop or place a ball., 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.
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 strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball..
When a player’s ball is accidentally movedMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so). 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 movedMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so)..
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 movedMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so). 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 lieLie: The spot on which a ball is at rest and any growing or attached natural object, immovable obstruction, integral object, or boundary object touching the ball or right next to it. 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 areaPenalty Area: An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there., 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.
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 feet back and forth hoping to step on or move: the ball to find it.