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Gareth

When does 3 minutes start?

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The player  has driven his ball 60 yards off line into a wooded area.  Two of his partners are on the fairway but not closer to the hole.

As the player  walks into the wooded area he sees a ball.  As he walks towards it, he tells his playing partners that he can see his ball.  They leave and return to the fairway. As the player  gets closer to the ball, he discovers that the ball is lying in as area of casual water and is quite muddy.  He waits for his turn to play as he wants to take relief from the casual water but is unwilling to do so until his playing partners agree the casual water position.  

After the other players have hit their second shots he calls them to witness the casual water etc.  They agree that he is entitled to relief. The player  then tramps through the mud and water only to discover that it is not his ball. 

The player  then claims that he is entitled to search for his original ball within a 3-minute period and starts to search under rule 18.2, stating that he did not believe his ball was missing until he identified the wrong ball in the casual water.

Was he entitled to take this course of action?

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25 minutes ago, Gareth said:

The player  has driven his ball 60 yards off line into a wooded area.  Two of his partners are on the fairway but not closer to the hole.

As the player  walks into the wooded area he sees a ball.  As he walks towards it, he tells his playing partners that he can see his ball.  They leave and return to the fairway. As the player  gets closer to the ball, he discovers that the ball is lying in as area of casual water and is quite muddy.  He waits for his turn to play as he wants to take relief from the casual water but is unwilling to do so until his playing partners agree the casual water position.  

After the other players have hit their second shots he calls them to witness the casual water etc.  They agree that he is entitled to relief. The player  then tramps through the mud and water only to discover that it is not his ball. 

The player  then claims that he is entitled to search for his original ball within a 3-minute period and starts to search under rule 18.2, stating that he did not believe his ball was missing until he identified the wrong ball in the casual water.

Was he entitled to take this course of action?

Did you check the Interpretations relative to 18.2?  Here's one  of several specific situations in 18.2(a)1/1 where the search is "interrupted", and the search time clock is stopped for a while:

Quote

In stroke play, a player searches for his or her ball for one minute and finds a ball. The player assumes that ball is his or her ball, takes 30 seconds to decide how to make the stroke, choose a club, and plays that ball. The player then discovers that it is a wrong ball.

When the player returns to the area where the original ball was likely to be and resumes search, he or she has two more minutes to search. The time of search stopped when the player found the wrong ball and stopped searching.

On the other hand, the player is required to promptly identify his ball.  In your situation, the player certainly could have taken a look at the ball without having his playing partners with him.  He can actually take the casual water relief without them being present, although I understand his reluctance.  In the example, the player isn't waiting around, he actively played the (wrong) ball before realizing it wasn't his.  In your case, the player is simply waiting to identify the ball.  I'm not rules official, but I'd be reluctant to allow him to resume his search when he's already been standing around for a while without making the effort to identify the ball.

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It's not Private Ryan it's just a golf ball!  Your 60 yard in the woods take the lost ball and go drop in the fairway and play on...

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