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Unfortunately the lost ball rule occurs too often for many golfers. There are negative side-effects to a lost ball. For one, the penalty for a lost ball is very stiff. Also, a lost ball can affect the speed of play if everyone spends too much time looking for their golf ball.
A golfer has five minutes to find a lost golf ball. After five minutes are up and the ball has not been found the ball is now ‘lost’.
The penalty for a lost ball is stroke and distance. A player who lost a ball must add one stroke to their score. Obviously this is the stroke element. The player also has to play their next shot for the exact spot they last struck the ball, the distance element.
This is the only option for a lost ball. Other rules like water hazards or an unplayable lie provide the golfer with options where they can play their next shot.
Tip to speed up play: If you believe your ball may be lost always play a ‘provisional’. A provisional is a ball that is introduced into ball temporarily. The provisional is hit from the spot you last played. If your ball is found then no penalty has occurred and you play the original ball. If the original ball becomes lost then you play the provisional ball. The provisional ball takes care of the distance element of the rule and now you add a stroke penalty.