If you hit your ball out of bounds or lose it (you have three minutes to search for your ball before it becomes lost), your only option is to go back to the spot of your previous stroke to play under stroke and distance. There are only a few exceptions to this when it is known or virtually certain what happened to your ball.
There is also an optional Local Rule which provides an alternative to stroke and distance relief when it is in effect. This Local Rule is recommended for casual play and not for competitions involving highly-skilled players. If it is in effect, for two penalty strokes, you can estimate the spot where your ball is lost or went out of bounds and then find the nearest fairway edge that is not nearer the hole than the estimated spot. You can drop a ball in the fairway within two club-lengths of that fairway edge point, or anywhere between there and the estimated spot where your ball is lost or went out of bounds.
If you think that your ball might be out bounds or that you might not find it, you can play a provisional ball to save time. You must announce that you are playing a provisional ball before doing so. If you are then unable to find your original ball, or you find it out of bounds, your provisional ball is your ball in play under stroke and distance, and you don’t have to take the time to walk all the way back to the spot of your previous stroke.
- I can’t find my ball after searching for three minutes – what are my options?
- I have interference from an out of bounds fence, stake or wall – what are my options?
- May I remove an out of bounds stake?
- I think my ball is stuck in the ground, but I can’t find it – how do I proceed?