So you hit your ball and you’re not sure where it went? Now what do you do?
If you think your ball may be lost, you should hit a provisional ball. Announce to your fellow players that you are going to hit a provisional ball. You then have 5 minutes to locate your original ball. While searching, be careful not to bump the ball to cause it to move, as this will cost you a penalty stroke. If your partner or caddie should cause your ball to move while assisting you in the search, again, that will cost you a penalty stoke. So search gingerly!
On the contrary, if your opponent should bump or move your ball accidently while helping you search for your ball, there is no penalty stroke. However, you do need to place the ball back to its original landing position.
If you are unable to find your ball within the 5-minute limitation, declare your ball lost to your fellow players and play your provisional ball. You will incur a stroke penalty as well as distance (in the event you lost some yardage when you hit your provisional ball). So take care when playing the provisional ball so that you get the most out of it should you need it!
By the way, if you hit your original ball in a water hazard, that does not qualify for a provisional ball. There are specific rules that apply for play from water hazards. So hit ‘em straight and avoid the lost ball quandary!