If there’s one thing every golfer should know, it’s how to fix a ball mark. Without this key piece of knowledge, the flat greens we know and love would not exist. Unfortunately, too few golfers know how to fix a ball mark. The worst part, even fewer do their fair share of fixing ball marks.
To keep our greens flat and pristine, golfers need to fix more than one mark on every green. They should fix their mark, a mark of one other person and probably another one to account for those that never do it. Putting on a green without ball marks is great. Putting on surfaces with a lot of ball marks is hardly better than putting on aerated greens. Everyone needs to do their part, and we at Bye Bogey are here to make sure you know how to properly fix a ball mark.
What to do
We know what to do. We know when to do it. However, we’re going to let the USGA tell you. We’ll provide some of the basics, but for a complete understanding you should watch the video below. When it comes to an average joe vs a national organization, they tend to explain things a bit more nicely.
For those who don’t want to watch the video, we’ll give some basics. First off, you always want start from the back of the divot and push towards the front. Doing this will get you most of the way and you can finish smoothing the surface by pushing from the sides and finally tapping down with your putter.
Another important takeaway is that when a bit of grass separates entirely from the green, you do not need to replace it as you would a divot in the fairway or the range. Simply flatten the surface as best you can. This ensures that the next person to go over the spot will have a flat putt and the grass will be able to grow back down the road.
What not to do
Fixing a ball mark is good. Fixing a ball mark without actually knowing how to fix a ball mark is not great. Avoiding these critical mistakes and golfers and the greenskeeper will appreciate your efforts.
The most common mistake you’ll see other golfers make is twisting to repair ball marks. This method helps to flatten the surface but harms the roots making it more difficult for good grass to grow.
Being gentle is key to long term turf health. Being too aggressive with your divot repair tool has the same effect as twisting and could damage grass below the surface. When course conditions are wet, ball marks are deeper and easier to identify. When it’s hot out and greens are firm, it might take a little effort to find your ball mark. For these conditions, it’s important to find your mark before it dries out and hardens, which will make it harder to repair.
Fixing a ball mark that was already there
When other golfers do not fix their ball marks, you immediately notice. Once you notice you’re on the hook to help. Besides your own ball mark, it’s part of an ethical code to fix a couple other ball marks you see.
If you find an older ball mark where the grass is already burnt out, you should still follow the same process. As time goes on and top seeding, sanding and aeration takes place, these holes will fill in. If you don’t repair these divots, efforts made by the grounds crew will not be as successful.
Most of the time you repair ball marks they are in the path of your putt. Other times you might have to seek some out, but it will pay off in the long run with better conditions the next time you come around.
Other places you should fix a ball mark
There are places besides the green you can fix ball marks. Where there’s grass, there’s opportunities for ball marks to affect your game. Knowing how to fix a ball mark is key to quality turf conditions, especially on the fringe and fairway. Hit a wood off the tee (wooden or plastic) and it leaves a ball mark? Fix it. Trying to hit onto the green and you come up short? Fix your ball mark on the fringe.
For a casual round fix every spot you find. Rules in competition affect your ability to fix ball marks while you’re off the green. Be sure to check the rules before affecting the conditions around your ball. No one wants to have unnecessary penalty strokes (or worse) attached to their score and round.
Now that you know how to fix a ball mark
After reading this, you should know how to fix a ball mark. You won’t be perfect at first, but lucky for you there are ball marks on every green you can practice on. You’ll get better with experience and your course will thank you.
As the USGA video above demonstrated, there are plenty of tools you can use to repair a ball mark. If a tee is your only option, use a tee—make the effort. One thing I’ve noticed is that experienced players usually have a few divot repair tools and most are happy to gift one to a new player. Don’t be afraid to ask since they’ll be paid back in improved greens.