Golfers lose balls a lot. There's a whole industry built on the presumption and proliferation of lost golf balls. And under the Rules of Golf, golfers only have so long to look for a ball they can't find.
With the new Rules of Golf in 2019, however, golfers will now have less time to find their ball before it is deemed lost.
Beginning in 2019, golfers will have 3 minutes to search for a lost golf ball. Before 2019, the Rules of Golf allotted 5 minutes for a golfer to find and identify their golf ball once they arrived to the general area where they thought it came to rest.
The time limit was cut to 3 minutes in the interest of speeding up the game. The new rules also acknowledges the fact that a golfer is likely to find their ball well inside 3 minutes if they saw approximately where the ball landed, and they'll need well more than 3 or 5 minutes to find a ball otherwise.
What's important to note under the Rules of Golf is that a player can employ anyone willing to help them in an effort to find the ball. A golfer can have their caddie, friends, family, playing competitors, gallery and pretty much anyone help them in the search.
If a golfer -- or whoever else is looking for their ball with them -- cannot find the ball within 3 minutes of arriving at the general area, then the ball is declared lost. At that point, a golfer then needs to return to where they hit the prior shot, take a penalty stroke and then hit again from that spot. It's a stroke-and-distance penalty that's one of the cruelest in the game.