You Found Your 'Lost' Golf Ball In the Hole - What's the Ruling?

Here's the scenario: You play a stroke into a green; maybe it's a blind green, but at any rate, you can't see your ball come to rest. When you get up to the green, you can't find your ball anywhere. You search, but eventually are forced to take the lost-ball penalty of stroke-plus-distance.

So you put the second ball into play, and when you hole out with the second ball, lo and behold, there's your first ball in the bottom of the cup. What is the ruling? Does your first ball, a hole-out, count, or does your second ball?

If your first ball counts, you might have just scored a hole in one, or perhaps even a double-eagle. If your second ball counts, you are likely bogeying, at best.

The answer is clear: The first ball (the one that was holed-out) counts. The very first rule in the Rules of Golf includes this:

"Each hole starts with a stroke from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green."

"When the ball is holed" is the part we're most concerned with; the very first rule in the rule book says that the point of the game is to get the ball into the hole. Once you've done that, your play of that hole is finished. You've completed play of a hole as soon as your ball finds the cup.

So erroneously playing a second ball, assessing the stroke-and-distance penalty, is superseded by the fact that your play of the hole was complete as soon as your first ball found the cup.