Losing golf balls is one of the most frustrating things in golf.
Not only does it kill your score but you just dumped a few dollars into the woods never to be seen again. It can be maddening and frustrating.
Not even the best players in the world can avoid lost golf balls altogether. So you may not be able to stop losing golf balls. But there are things you can do to cut down on lost balls.
And if you need to reload the supply, be sure to check out our guide on the Best Golf Balls for your game.
In the meantime, try these tips to keep it in play.
Keeping The Shot In Play
The first part of finding your ball is hitting it where you want. Yes, that’s easier said than done, but these tips should help…
Identify The Danger Zones
This is course management 101.
Before you hit your tee shot, you need to look at the hole and identify the areas that you won’t be able to recover from.
Things like water hazards, out of bounds, or high fescue are places where losing your golf ball is highly likely. So play your shot away from them.
Scoring well in golf is more about avoiding big mistakes than it is about hitting amazing golf shots. If you want to stop losing golf balls on a regular basis then you need to take that mentality.
I like to look at a golf hole as different zones, each with varying levels of danger. Obviously, the places where a lost ball is likely are the highest danger zones. The fairway and green are the lowest danger zones. Then you just need to figure out what misses are acceptable and easier to recover from and play towards those zones.
Know Your Limits (and stay within them)
When I was still learning the game, I would automatically take out my driver on every par 5 and IF I hit the fairway, the 3 wood was the automatic next club. I wanted to hit that green in 2 shots and go for the eagle.
Except on most par 5 holes, my chances of doing that were about 1%.
Rarely, I’d get home in two (and probably 3 putt…but that’s a different story). But any gains I made from those rare successes were far outweighed by the double and triple bogeys I made by attempting the hero shots that were very low percentage shots for my skill level.
So if you tend to lose a lot of golf balls every round, you may be biting off more than you can chew.
How did I change my approach?
Now I look at the entire hole and work backward from where I want to take my approach shot. That often means shorter clubs off the tee when there are hazards out there to avoid. It also means setting myself up for a clean third shot from the fairway on par 5 holes rather than always trying to get to the green in two shots.
So back off a little, play conservatively. Not only will you lose fewer golf balls…you’ll probably see lower scores too.
Stick To Your Routine On Difficult Shots
No matter what your skill level, you need a pre-shot routine.
A good pre-shot routine is one of the keys to consistency. And hitting the ball with consistency is going to help you avoid losing it.
I think most players lose their balls off the tee on more difficult holes. In addition to the hole being tougher overall, the difficulty level also has a tendency to throw you off your game.
That means you aren’t able to make your normal swing.
Instead of focusing on the negative stuff (the difficult hole in front of you), focus on your pre-shot routine. That helps you mentally treat the shot the same as every other hole.
When it comes down to it you are making the same swing whether its the most difficult hole on the course or the least difficult. So spend time developing a pre-shot routine that you are comfortable with and practice it enough so that you can lean on it when it comes time for a difficult shot.
Get Your Alignment Right
Ever make a great swing, hit the shot solid, and then watch it soar majestically into the rough (or worse…out of bounds)?
Yep, it happens to all of us.
That’s why you’ll see pros working so hard on their alignment at the range. Getting yourself aligned properly is critical if you want to hit the ball straight.
Getting aligned right isn’t something that you either do or don’t do…it’s a skill that you need to practice. One of the best ways to practice it is by using sticks at the range to force yourself to be aligned to your target. But don’t buy those overpriced “alignment sticks” from the golf store. You can get the exact same thing for a lot less. They are called driveway markers. CLICK HERE to grab an inexpensive 10 pack on Amazon.
Using alignment sticks during your practice sessions will train your eye to align yourself correctly.
Since you stand to the side of the ball in golf, your eyes can be deceiving when trying to line yourself up correctly. This is why you need to work on it.
Swing Smoother, Not Harder
You don’t want to swing “slow” but swinging smoothly is great.
You can generate a lot of club speed without having to swing hard. It comes with proper technique and sequencing. But this article isn’t about swing speed, it’s about how to stop losing golf balls.
A smooth rhythmic swing is going to produce consistently good results much more often than an aggressive hack at the ball. So if you find yourself having to go back in the bag more often for a new ball, dial it back a notch.
Instead of trying to swing fast, see how smooth you can swing.
How often do you hit a good shot after a bad shot or a bad score?
If you’re like me…not that often.
I tend to get angry at myself and think more about the last shot than the next one. That is a recipe for disaster. So the next time you find yourself sitting on the tee after a double bogey…take a second to compose yourself.
Take a deep breath. Close your eyes if you have to. But do something to close that last shot out of your mind and get focused on the next one.
How To Find Those Stray Shots
The second part of holding on to those golf balls is to find it when you do hit an errant shot. Here are some things to keep in mind after a bad shot.
Pay Attention To Your Ball
My first reaction after a bad shot is to turn away and try and convince myself it didn’t happen.
Unfortunately, that adds insult to injury because then I can’t see where it lands. Try to get in the habit of staring down every single shot you hit. Even if you ripped it down the fairway.
Even good shots can hit a sprinkler head and end up dozens of yards from where you think they are. So bad shots need exceptional concentration.
Don’t depend on others to watch your ball land. Even though it is good etiquette to watch other’s shots off the tee, not everyone does it. Plus, you never know if they are checking their phone, filling out the scorecard, or running to the bathroom because of that 5th beer on the front nine.
Ask For Help
While you shouldn’t depend on your playing partners to watch your shot, don’t be embarrassed to ask for a little help finding it if you’re not sure where it is.
Some courses have thick rough, so even a ball just off the fairway can tricky to find, especially for one person. If you aren’t quite sure of the area it landed, that makes it even harder.
So call in reinforcements.
It’s a good idea to let those farther back from the hole than you hit first and then ask them for a little assistance.
Approach The Landing Area From Different Directions
Grass can grow in different directions and a golf ball that’s visible from one angle may be hidden from another.
So it can be helpful, if you are having trouble finding the ball, to approach the landing area from different directions.
If you have multiple people looking for it, have one person walking back and forth one way and have the other walk perpendicular to them. That way you have different points of view covered.
How To Deal With A Lost Ball (Bonus Tips)
Ok, so these aren’t going to prevent you from losing your ball. But when it happens, you need to know what to do.
Hit A Provisional
If you hit your ball somewhere that makes you think it may be lost, then hit a provisional ball.
You can always play the original ball if you find it. But the rules require you to go back to the tee if you lose a ball, so hitting a provisional can be a big time saver.
It also takes away the stress of having to rush back to the tee after a frantic search for the ball.
Don’t Slow Down Play
Sometimes, you just have to give up.
The rules allow you to search for a lost golf ball for 3 minutes (it was changed from 5 to 3 in 2019). That’s not a lot of time, which is why it’s a good idea to ask for help.
If no one is on the course behind you…it’s ok to take a little longer. But not too much longer.
It happens to everyone, move on and focus on the next shot.
Choose The Right Golf Ball
A lot of players are playing a golf ball that isn’t right for them.
For example, beginners and high handicappers aren’t doing themselves any favors if they insist on playing a Pro V1 (or other premium golf ball).
The key to finding the best golf ball (and one that might help you stop losing golf balls) is to find the right one for your skill level and your swing.
That’s what we had in mind when we created our guide to choosing the Best Golf Balls. In addition to telling you the best options on the market, we created a series of mini-guides that focus on a specific type of player or skill level so you can find the best option.