New golfers often celebrate their first bogey, their first par or their first birdie. Breaking 100 for 18 holes is also a huge landmark. Here’s another milestone worth celebrating: Your first full round without losing a ball.
Unless you play a wide open course with no woods, water or weeds, be prepared to say goodbye at least a few balls per round in your early days as a golfer. In fact, losing balls is a lifetime habit for everyone (though some “misplace” far fewer than others).
In a separate article, we tell you what to do when you hit a shot into the water. Here we’ll explain the best way to proceed when you lose a ball in the trees, thick grass or out of bounds.
Under USGA rules, losing a ball incurs a “stroke and distance” penalty. That is, you must replay the shot from the same spot and add one stroke to your score. (In essence, it’s a two-shot penalty because of the lost distance.) Playing this way isn’t really necessary as a beginner enjoying a casual round, however. It’s tedious and time-consuming.
Instead, simply drop a ball near the spot where your previous attempt was last seen, making sure you’ve got a clear path back to the fairway or a clearing. If you lose a ball in the woods, drop one on the edge of the trees and play from there. Most players who use this method add a single penalty stroke after dropping. To adhere more closely to the rules, however, you should actually add two shots.
Once you begin recording scores to establish a handicap, you’ll need to self-administer a proper stroke-and-distance penalty for each lost ball.
In the meantime, save yourself the hassle – and spare your playing partners the wait – by taking this little shortcut. Don’t worry, the rules police won’t arrest you.