Stumped by something you've seen out on the course? Our rules expert will find you the answers

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

Reader Steve Forrest emailed me this scenario: “I was playing in a stroke play competition last year. I drove into some trees and rough about 180 yards off the tee to the left and decided to play a provisional – declaring so to my playing partner.

“It was a similar shot, but possibly went 10 to 15 yards further into more trees and rough. I spent maybe two minutes looking for the first ball with the aid of my partner.

“Conscious of the time, I walked forward to where I thought my provisional would be but, after only a very short look, I turned back to have final look for my original ball.

“My playing partner had wandered off and, thinking my three minutes was up, I subsequently no returned. After my partner played, I asked him if he thought I’d used my three minutes and he replied that I had.

“My question is: Did I have another three minutes to look for the provisional and would your answer be different if my provisional was on the other side of the fairway?”

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says…

There I was thinking that provisionals were always perfect shots too. There’s actually an interpretation to the definition of ‘Lost’ that covers this exact situation.

So when a player has played two balls and is searching for both – such as the ball in play and a provisional – whether you get two separate three-minute search times depends on how close the balls are to each other.

“If the balls are in the same area where they can be searched for at the same time, the player is allowed only three minutes to search for both balls.

“However, if the balls are in different areas – such as opposite sides of the fairway – the player is allowed a three-minute search time for each ball.”

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

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

Follow NCG on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for the latest equipment and golf course reviews and exclusive interviews.