Why Do Golfers Mark Their Ball on The Green?

If you are watching a golf broadcast, you may be wondering why golfers use coins to mark their ball on the green.  So, why do golfers mark their ball on the green?

Golfers mark their ball on the green to get their ball out of the way for their playing partners.

There are several other reasons why golfers want to mark their ball and get it out of the way for their playing partners.  Let’s discuss why it makes sense for golfers to get their ball out of the way and we will also discuss what golfers use to mark their ball on the green.

Getting Their Ball Out of The Way

If you have watched golf, you know how hard it is for even professionals to make putts consistently outside of 5 feet.  The fact is, making putts is very hard, especially on the greens that professionals play on. 

Making putts would be infinitely harder if they also had to putt around competitor’s golf balls.  The original rules of golf actually mandated you couldn’t move or mark a ball on the green, so competitors did in fact have to putt around other golf balls. 

This all started to change in 1938 when the rules of golf began a trial to allow some marking of the golf ball and quickly made these rules permanent a couple of years later.  Not only do golfers mark their ball, they can then move the marker if another competitor deems the marker to be in the line where they are trying to putt their golf ball. 

A golfer can move their mark as far as they need to, the only stipulation is before they hit their putt they have to get the marker back in the original position.  This allows for golfers to be able to get their ball completely out of the way of their competitors but still not gain any advantage since they will still have to putt from where their last shot came to rest.

Cleaning The Golf Ball

Golf doesn’t allow golfers to move their ball in anyway or pick their ball up at any time except when they are on the green.  This means even if the golf ball gets mud, debris, or anything else on it, it they aren’t on the green, they still have to hit the golf shot without first cleaning the ball.

Why Do Golfers Pick Up Their Ball on The Green?

Golfers pick up their ball on the green to remove it after it has been marked. This gives them an opportunity to clean the golf ball.

The foreign materials on the golf ball can cause it to be unpredictable, meaning it could go anywhere when you hit it. Debris on the ball will definitely cause the ball to not roll where the golfer intended for the ball to roll.  Because of this, golf rules allow for golfers to mark their ball on the green and use a towel to clean the ball off, which means the golfer will have a perfectly clean ball to putt with.

This gives golfers the best chance of making putts and recording the best score possible.  Golfers can also remove loose impediments or debris off the green so when they hit their putt, the ball won’t hit those loose impediments.  The most common types of debris on greens are leaves, small pebbles of rock, or sand.

Golfers Want to Eliminate Unlucky or Lucky Bounce

If you have watched a golf tournament you may have seen where two golf balls hit each other on the green.  This can happen when players are hitting to the green with their approach shots that are far away from the green.  Golf rules state that the ball that was on the green first will be put back in the original spot it came to rest and the second ball that was hit onto the green will be played where it came to rest. 

This can lead to very unlucky or lucky results for the second player who hit his ball onto the green and then struck the first ball. Golfers want to try to avoid these types of things from happening. 

The problem is when competitors are far away from the green, it would make the rounds last a really long time if a golfer would hit the ball onto the green and then have to go mark it before any playing competitors hit their approach shot to the green.  That all changes when competitors are near the green.  When they are close to the green, it doesn’t take much time for golfers to go mark their ball and get it out of the way of their playing competitors.

Golfers Don’t Want to Give an Advantage to a Playing Partner

Similar to not wanting to create an unlucky bounce, golfers also don’t want to have their ball be an advantage for a playing partner. 

A golfer may want to try and use an opponent’s ball as a backstop.  This can happen when a golfer has a really tough shot and they know they are going to have a hard time getting the ball to stop quickly on the green. 

Similar to hitting the flagstick, hitting an opponent’s ball can cause their ball to stop much quicker, giving them a better chance at getting up and down.  Getting up and down is one of the most important aspects of golf. If you want to learn more about what an up and down is, please see our article on getting up and down. 

Not only do golfers not want to give an advantage to a playing partner, but they also want to protect the rest of the tournament field.  With golf, you are playing against the whole field, so anyone gaining any unfair advantage is gaining an advantage on the whole field.

Why Do Golfers Put A Coin Down?

When golfers do mark their ball on the green, they often use a quarter.  You will hear golf announcers say they “are going to the change”, which means they are going to mark their ball. Why do golfers put a coin down?

Golfers put a coin down to mark their ball on the green and to get it out of the way of fellow competitors.

There are many types of markers and superstitions that professional golfers use, but the most common is the quarter.

Why Do Golfers Put Down A Quarter?

Once golf rules changed to allow golfers to mark their ball and get it out of the way of fellow competitors, the quarter quickly became the most common way to mark their ball. 

Golfers typically carried change in their pockets, and so long before companies started making featured ball markers, golfers would use whatever they had in their pockets.  Quarters are a great ball marker as they are small enough that they won’t affect a golf ball that much if another ball hits the quarter, but they are also big enough to be easily seen by other golfers so no one steps on it or steps in the line of the putt. 

There are many different kinds of ball markers used today, but the quarter is still one of the most common ones used.

Other Ball Markers

As mentioned, there are now many different types of ball markers that golfers use.  Companies have created a ball marker for just about everyone. 

Some examples of ball markers today are sports themed markers, plastic markers, metal markers that are similar to a quarter but smaller, poker chips, markers that have a piece attached to them that inserts into the green to keep them from moving, and so on. 

If you can think of a theme to put on a marker, companies probably have created it or will create it for you.

Can Golfers Use a Poker Chip to Mark a Ball?

As we mentioned, there are many different types of ball markers.  With that said, can golfers actually use a poker chip?  Yes, golfers can use any type of ball marker they want.  There are no rules governing what you can and can’t use for ball markers. 

Golf etiquette asks you use a small but identifiable marker than won’t easily interfere with other playing competitors.  Poker chips have been used on the PGA tour as well, although they are quite rare.

Can Golfers Use a Tee to Mark a Ball?

Can golfers really use a tee to mark a ball?  Yes, golfers can use any ball marker they want, including a golf tee. 

Tees are less common because they can easily affect the path of a ball if a competitor golf ball where to hit them, so golf etiquette would frown upon using tees in a tournament or anything like that.  I have never seen a pro golfer use a tee in a tournament.  Using a tee on the weekend with your friends shouldn’t be an issue at all.

Can You Mark Your Ball With Your Putter?

There are many different ball markers, but can you use a putter to mark a ball? 

You can use your putter to mark the ball if the putter doesn’t move at all after marking the ball.  Using such a large item to mark your ball would be frowned upon by your playing competitors.  If you wanted to just quickly mark your ball with your putter to clean your ball or move it slightly, then you could certainly do that.

Why Are There Different Ball Markers?

The rules of golf do not specify what your ball marker needs to be, so all golfers are allowed to choose their own.  Superstition is the the main driver for professional players finding a ball marker to use. 

Golfers will often times use a ball marker that they won a tournament with, or played really well in a big tournament with, or some other type of superstitious justification.  Using superstition gives the golfer the belief that the marker is lucky or will bring them good luck on the greens. 

Other golfers just want to show school pride so they have a ball marker from their college or even high school.  Then there are old school golfers that want to keep the tradition alive and so they use quarters or some type of change.  Since there aren’t any rules governing ball markers, golfers will continue to have different markers for different reasons. 

Can You Mark Your Ball Before Everyone is on the Green?

When you are marking your ball on the green, you may wonder does everyone have to be on the green before the ball can be marked? 

You do not have to wait for everyone to be on the green before you mark your ball.  In fact, it is quite common for someone to not be on the green when you mark your ball. 

Usually someone has missed the green with their approach shot and if you are on the green you should mark your ball before they play their next shot to make sure they don’t hit your ball with their next shot.

Do You Have to Mark Your Golf Ball on the Green?

Do you have to mark your ball on the green?  The answer is you do not.  There is no golf rule that states you have to mark your ball on the green. 

If you want to pick it up, clean it, or move the ball in any way, then you have to mark your ball or you will be assessed penalty strokes.  Golfers usually always mark their ball.

This helps them see the line of the putt better, gives them an opportunity to clean the golf ball of any debris, and gets the ball out of the way of fellow competitors. They also can then align the golf ball to where they want to hit the putt.

Joshua Lloyd

Joshua is lead content creator for basketball and golf at Sports Fan Focus. Golf is a passion of his and he enjoys both playing and watching golf in his spare time. To read more about Joshua, visit the SFF About Us page.

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