Searching for a ball
The old rules penalized a player if they moved their ball while searching for it, such as in high grass or in a bush. If another player or outside agent, such as a spectator, moved the ball during a search, there was no penalty. It could be an awkward rule.
Under the new rules, there will be no penalty if a player, his caddie, another player or outside influence inadvertently moves the ball while searching for it. The player must simply return the ball to its original spot. If the ball was under an object, including under a bush or immovable obstruction, it must be replaced under that same object.
Players can move sand or water; bend grass or branches; or even break grass or branches so long as it’s part of a reasonable effort to find or identify the ball. But a player still cannot act excessively by intentionally breaking branches or tearing up grass to improve the next shot – such actions result in a general penalty (loss of hole in match play; two-stroke penalty in stroke play).
If a ball is found buried in sand, the player must recreate the original lie as best as possible but may leave a small portion of the ball visible.
If a player finds a ball but can’t identify it as their ball, they can lift it to confirm it is their ball. But they first must mark the location; failure to mark the spot results in a one-stroke penalty. If the ball is too dirty to identify it, the player may clean it just enough to identify it. The ball must be returned to that original spot.
Another important change that involves looking for a lost ball: Under the new rules, players have three minutes to search for a lost ball. Under the old rules, players were given five minutes. This change was made to speed up play.