Lost Ball in Fairway / Rule 27


Last season, during a Juniors Tournament in which I officiated, an interesting situation occurred. A young man and young lady were paired together for this stroke play event. The young lady was playing from the forward tees and had the honors. After her tee shot the young man played and both began walking down the rolling fairway. Both players hit great shots down the middle.

As the competitors approached the crest of a hill, they noticed two balls in the middle of the fairway, one just slightly past the other. They arrived at the first ball and then both competitors walked and looked at the second ball. Immediately they waived me over with a puzzled look on their faces.

They explained to me there was some confusion as to which ball belonged to which player. Both stated they were playing a Taylor Made ball with the number 3. Neither had put an identifying mark on their ball. One competitor thought her ball was more to the right but not certain. The young man thought he had hit his shot past her ball. Almost immediately the young lady challenged the notion she had been outdriven just because ‘guys think they hit it farther than we do.’

How should the players determine which ball belonged to which player?


Because neither player could identify their ball, both balls are declared lost (see the definition of ‘lost ball’ under USGA Definitions). The two competitors were irritated because both shots were hit down the middle in great position for their approach shots. I explained to the players since both balls are identical and have no distinguishing mark, it was not possible to determine which ball belonged to which player. Because of this, both players must declare their ball lost and return to the tee and hit their third shot (rule 27, stroke and distance for lost ball).

Once back on the tee, both players reached into their golf bag, grabbed a marker and marked their ball! I doubt if either player will play again without first putting an identifying mark on their ball. A great example of what can happen if you don’t mark your ball.


Do you have a Rules question you would like answered? Contact me. Gary@thenextgolfshot.com

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