They do great business in golf shops but can you tee them up with a card on the line? Our Rules of Golf expert dives in

Lake balls, refurbished golf balls, practice, X-outs – whatever you want to call them – getting hold of golf’s most essential item at a less than premium price is big business.

Whatever your thoughts, and the internet appears to put forward many views, there is no doubting that many players turn to them in a bid to bolster their bags and save a few quid.

All of which makes their status pretty interesting from a Rules of Golf perspective. So what do the governing bodies say about them? For that, we’re going to have to dig into the 500-page Official Guide to the Rules of Golf…

What balls can I use during a round?

Rule 4.2a spells this out neatly. They have to conform to the requirements in the Equipment Rules.

There is a list of conforming golf balls?

There most certainly is, and it’s very comprehensive. It is a rundown of any ball that’s been submitted for evaluation over the last year and it’s updated on the first Wednesday of every month. You can find it here.

refurbished golf balls

What if my ball is not on that list?

Firstly, don’t despair. It may be that it just hasn’t been tested and an interpretation to Rule 4.2a (1) states that, in that case, the balls are presumed to conform.

If you’re alleging they don’t, the burden falls on you to prove that. But if they have been tested and don’t conform to the satisfaction of the Equipment Rules, don’t use them. The penalty is disqualification (unless the stroke doesn’t count for your score, such as a provisional that doesn’t become the ball in play).

Committees can adopt a Local Rule that requires players to use a “brand and model of ball on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls”, but you’ll hardly ever see that in place at your clubs. You will, though, probably find it on a Hard Card if you take to the fairways in a top class amateur or professional competition.

What about refurbished golf balls, X-outs, and practice balls?

Another interpretation to Rule 4.2a (1) deals with these. So let’s look at each in turn:

X-Outs: Golf balls that a manufacturer has classed as imperfect and has crossed out the brand name.

Refurbished: A second-hand golf ball that’s been “cleaned and stamped as ‘refurbished’ or a similar stamping”.

The interpretation says that in the “absence of strong evidence” to suggest such balls don’t conform, they can be used by players.

But, remember that Local Rule we’ve just discussed? If that’s in place, these balls cannot be used even if they appear on the list.

Practice: No problems here. They are treated in the same way as a ball that has the stamp of a golf club logo, course, company or any other logo. These can be played even when the Local Rule is in place.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s Level 3 rules exam with distinction, I’ll try to help as much as possible. If there’s a subject, you’d like me to get into, why not tweet me? You can also look up our weekly Rules of Golf explained column.

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