Duh Never said there was.
If you were on the clock and walked up the right hand side of the fairway to look for a fellow competitor's ball, spent a few minutes searching, then walked 150 yards to the other side to your ball at about the same distance from the hole, you would almost certainly be penalised. You would have been expected to have gone directly to your ball and made your preparations for your stroke.
Who is on the clock? Of course things are different when you are on the clock but that is a whole different situation. Plus, the clock begins when its your turn to play. How would they determine who is out if the other players ball has not been found? So I don't buy that someone would get penalized for looking for another person's ball.
No kidding. This whole argument came about because I said I don't have to go ahead of my group and look for my ball. I am well within the rules to wait behind the balls of my fellow competitors until we arrive at the area where my ball most likely came to rest.
I agree that most of the time, at least some of the group would help to find a misplaced ball, particularly if they have to wait for the target area to clear, or if they are already in the general area where another player's ball disappeared. At the same time, if I'm with 3 guys who are walking, and they all hit to the right rough, but my ball is in the far left rough, I don't expect all of them to race up and hit their shots, then run over and help me find mine. I also don't go over to their balls with them, even if one is in a position where it might be lost. I go directly to my ball and begin to search. If the time runs out, or I give up, before anyone comes to help, that is my fault for playing a poor shot. I don't just expect that they will delay play to help me. Such help is a courtesy, not a requirement or a "rule", written or otherwise.
I played in the same Men's Club for 22 years, And in that time, most of the regular members became my friends. We were always helpful and courteous in such situations when it was reasonable to be helpful, but not at the expense of delaying play and risking a penalty (and we had a strictly enforced pace of play policy on our tournament hard card). We treated each other with respect and friendship, but it was a golf club, not a ladies aid society, and the main focus was playing golf by the rules.
I guess I just believe you can play by the rules and help each other out as well, not one or the other. Plus my group plays so fast that a slow play penalty would never even be a consideration.