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moving a golf ball marker

What are you allowed to use as a ball marker?

From huge poker chips to old coins and beer cans, our expert is never surprised by what he sees used to mark a spot. But what do the Rules say?

 

Mine isn’t so much a golf ball marker as a disc. It’s large enough that it could probably be picked up by a passing satellite. But, unlike most I’ve had, its sheer scale means I’ve managed to avoid losing it.

I’m sure you’ve seen all sorts used as ball markers during your rounds. From priceless old coins to beer cans, sentimentality, practically and, sometimes, whatever comes to hand can be the determining factor when deciding what marks the spot of a ball.

But what do the rules say? What is legal and what’s going to get you into trouble with your competition committee?

golf ball marker

Golf ball marker rules

Why do we need a golf ball marker?

When your lifting a ball under a Rule that requires it to be replaced on its original spot, Rule 14.1a says the “player must mark the spot”.

You might not know this, but you are allowed to hold a club on the ground “right behind or right next to the ball” to do this. Pretty much of all the time, though, you’re going to place a ball marker in the same fashion.

What is a golf ball marker?

The Rules give it a definition. They say a ball marker is “an artificial object when used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment”.

I’m often asked if a tee is OK, so show whoever is challenging you this definition and send them back to their own ball.

The important bit is the use of the word “artificial”. Don’t pick up a stone, a twig, or any other loose impediment and pop that down if you’re struggling to locate that coin in your pocket. You’ll get a one-stroke penalty.

I can really use anything artificial as a golf ball marker?

The term is vague. But, on the face of it, it could really be anything. You could stick down a half finished can of lager you’ve bought at the halfway house and use that as a ball marker. It’s not very edifying, but it’s not against the Rules.

You could take off a shoe if the mood took you. Stick down a glove. A hat. I think you get the drift. Just make sure you can put the ball back on its original spot. If you don’t and make a stroke, it’s the general penalty (two strokes or loss of hole in match play) for playing from the wrong place.

Now, Rule 4.3a says players can’t use equipment to create a potential advantage by artificially eliminating or reducing the need for skill or judgement.

So those nifty markers with the spirit level that helps you to judge slope and direction? They are out.

Now have your say

What’s the most unusual thing you have used as a golf ball marker? And what do you make of these golf marker rules? Let me know on X, formerly known as twitter.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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