You’ve hit your shot into an abnormal course condition, and you can’t find it. Our Rules of Golf expert is on hand to help

You know you can take relief from an abnormal course condition. But what if you get there and your ball is nowhere to be found? It’s a scenario that led David Hahn to ask this Rules of Golf question via email: “Do you have to find your ball for relief from GUR if you believe it went in there?”

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says…

What kind of GUR is this? Quicksand? But seriously, Rule 16.1e covers when a ball is not found but is in or on an abnormal course condition on the course.

Ground Under Repair is one of four abnormal course conditions identified in the rules. The others are animal holes, immovable obstructions, and temporary water.

Before you can take advantage of this rule you’ve got to know, or be virtually certain, the ball ended up there.

I’ve looked at the issue of known or virtually certain before but, to sum up quickly, you’ve got to have seen it happen, or witnesses saw it happen, or all the information shows it is at least 95 per cent likely it happened.

Possible, probable, believe, hope – none of this is enough under the definition in the rule book.

If you can meet that standard, fear not. You can take free relief under Rule 16.1b, c or d, depending in what part of the course the abnormal course condition is found.

Here’s what to do. Take the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the abnormal course condition and use that as the spot to find the nearest point of complete relief.

There’s a couple of extra things to note in Rule 16.1e. Once you’ve used it to put a ball in play, your original ball no longer is. Treat it like it’s diseased. You can’t hit it.

That’s the case even if it turns up before the end of the three-minute search time.

And what if you don’t know, or aren’t virtually certain, and can’t find the ball? The long walk back from whence you came is your only option. You must take stroke-and-distance relief.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. I have been inundated with requests in recent weeks and am working hard to try and get through them but it might take a little time!

In recent weeks, I’ve received a number of emails from players hoping I can intervene in a club rules dispute. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t do that and would direct those players either to their county or to the rules department at the R&A for a definitive judgement.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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