Search time (Rule 18)
Previously, five minutes were available for finding a lost ball.
Now, the maximum search time is only three minutes.
Good to know: Most balls were previously found within three minutes and searching during the last two minutes was often unsuccessful – it is therefore not expected that this rule change will have a negative impact on scores.
Ball moved during a search (Rule 7)
Previously, the player usually incurred a penalty stroke if he moved his ball during a search.
Now, a mishap such as this is without penalty.
Good to know: You can therefore use your feet and your clubs when searching in thick grass without any consequences. The ball must be put back.
Identifying the ball (Rule 7)
Previously, if you wanted to pick up your ball to identify it, you had to inform a fellow-player in advance and give him the opportunity to observe the process.
Now, you no longer have to inform a fellow-player.
Good to know: If circumstances allow, it is still advisable to inform your fellow-players before you pick up your ball as a matter of courtesy and in order to avoid misunderstandings.
Provisional ball (Rule 18)
Previously, a provisional ball could only be played before the player walked down the fairway to look for his first ball (however, going forward as far as 50 yards (45 meters) was allowed).
Now, you can also play a provisional ball after you have already looked for your original ball for a while.
Good to know: Now that the search time has been reduced to three minutes, it will be virtually impossible to play a provisional ball after you have already searched for a while. Because, after the three minutes have expired, it is no longer a provisional ball but it automatically becomes the new ball in play.