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GUR Rules of Golf

My ball is lost in GUR – what do I do?

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?”

Ball lost in GUR: What do the Rules of Golf say?

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.

Ground Under Repair sign

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.

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think about these golf divot rules and golf divots in general? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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