Marking a golf ball is more complicated than throwing a coin down and waiting until it’s your turn. There are rules for where and how to mark a golf ball, and not following them to a tee, violates the rules. Intentional or unintentional, breaking the rules of golf means penalty strokes, and nobody wants to do that.
We’ll keep it simple. Bye Bogey is going to lay out how to mark a golf ball, where it’s legal to mark a golf ball, and explain some common mistakes and misconceptions. Follow this guide and you’ll look like a pro on the greens—that is, until you have to actually putt.
Where can you mark a golf ball?
A golf ball can only be marked on the green. A ball is on the fringe cannot be marked. If your ball is marked, you can lift, clean, and place before lining the putt up. If it’s on the fringe, don’t bother asking how to mark a golf ball. You can’t do it. Any loose debris (like grass or dirt) will have to stay there and you cannot line it up.
How to mark a golf ball
Take a coin or some other object and place it directly behind or next to the ball (we advise against using crackers a la Happy Gilmore). Once the mark is on the ground, pick the ball up. At this point you can clean it before putting it back down (exactly where you lifted it from) and lining the putt up. Once you’re satisfied with how the ball is lined up, you can lift the mark and get ready to putt.
What about when someone asks you to move it
If someone asks you to move your mark, you have the green light.
- Mark your ball as you normally would.
- Pick an object off the green, maybe a tree or tee marker.
- Place your putter head directly in line from the mark to your chosen object and move the marker from one side of the putter head to the other
After the person takes their putt, be sure to move your mark back using the same method, only in reverse.
Marking the ball due to special circumstances
There are different scenarios where it is okay to mark a golf ball off the green. If your golf ball is going to impede the swing of another player, it can be marked—but in a different way than while on the green.
It does not matter if your ball is in the path of another player. The ball can only be marked if it will obstruct a swing or benefit the other player. When this happens, a golfer can mark their ball but cannot clean it.
Another scenario now. Say your ball is on the fringe by the front of the green and someone you’re playing with is a few feet directly back and they want to bump and run. If they ask you to mark the ball so they don’t have anything in the path of the ball, this is illegal. When you’re already on the green and they ask you to mark it, that’s perfectly legal. If they happen to hit your ball, follow Rule 11.
When should you mark your golf ball?
You should mark your golf ball any time it is on the green (now that you know how to mark a golf ball). If you are the next person to putt (farthest away), you are not required to mark the ball before putting, but if you want to line your putt up, you will need to.
What happens when a ball mark is in the way?
See the section above on moving a ball marker. You are well within your rights to ask someone to move their ball marker and no, they cannot deny your request.
It’s worth noting that hitting the mark is not illegal and will not result in a penalty. In our experience, golf balls that hit another person’s mark get knocked off course. Do yourself a favor, ask the person to move their mark. This will avoid an “almost” make that you end up thinking about the rest of the round.