How to Find a Lost Golf Ball

Do you keep hitting your golf ball into the rough? It can be disheartening when you finish a swing only to see your ball disappear over a hill and into the bushes – and a lost golf ball is no joking matter. If you splurge on great quality balls or hit your lucky one in a not-so-lucky spot, you might want to search for it even though it has gone into the depths of the rough. Here’s some tips and tricks for your next golf round – especially if you tend to hit your golf ball out of sight.

Make note of where the lost golf ball disappeared

This seems like an obvious note, but you’d be surprised! When your golf ball disappears into the bushes, it can be tempting to look away and sigh and let out your frustration. Before you do that, take note of your line of sight. What is directly above the point where the ball disappeared? Take a mental picture so that you can walk straight in that direction. There will be some sort of landmark or notable feature near where the ball left your sight. That action alone can save you a lot of digging through shrubs.

Make note of the sound the lost golf ball made

Did you hear bushes rustle? The tell-tale thunk of a ball against a tree trunk? Nothing at all? These can be useful clues to help you during your search. But first…

Hit a provisional

To be on the safe side, feel free to hit a provisional. Announce clearly to your competitor that you intend to play a provisional ball (Rule 27-2). Then, make your shot. If you can’t find your ball, you can play your provisional and take a stroke penalty. If you do find your lost golf ball, simply pick up the provisional without a penalty and play your original shot.

Think about the physics of your shot

I know, I know. This sounds over-the-top. But if you step back and try to visualize where the wind, gravity, and slope would have taken your ball, you can narrow down your target search area. Also note the ball’s path in the air when you initially hit it. Did it arc? Skip along the ground? Fly out of view or roll out of view? These can all give you a hint about the trajectory of the ball and its journey.

lost golf ball

Don’t be too proud

You’ll waste everybody’s time if you look for your lost golf ball in an area you where know it didn’t land. Be humble, go in different directions, and refrain from pretending to look in a spot that you definitely didn’t reach. Your partners will appreciate your quick locating of the ball way more than they would appreciate a mock-search that takes up time – only to have someone spot your ball twenty yards back lodged in a tree.

Enlist help during the hunt

Two pairs of eyes are better than one. Have your partner help you search for the ball! It’s easy to miss something right in front of you, and another person looking will help ensure that no leaf (or bush, or tree) goes unturned.

Prepare for next time

If all else fails, your ball might be gone for good. But don’t worry. There are golf products that can make a lost golf ball easier to find. Look for neon-colored golf balls (yellow or pink are great), golf ball retrievers you can keep in your bag, golf ball finding apps that filter camera light on your phone, and really long pieces of string that you can tape to your golf ball, so that you can reel it back in. (Just kidding about that last one)

Truth be told, the best way to prevent a lost golf ball is to practice your swing! Getting rid of a hook or slice can make golfing significantly more enjoyable for you – and you won’t lose as many golf balls to the rough. Sand and water traps are another story for another day.


If you want to learn how to hit straighter (and hopefully stay out of the rough), see How to Stop Hooks and Slices.

Trying to get out of the sand? Here are 3 Awesome Tips to Hit a Sand Bunker Shot Successfully.


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