One ball to rule them all

September 9, 2011

We all need to change sometimes, but knowing how and when to do so can make all the difference.

Consider the humble golf ball.

Most golfers know that a golf ball that’s been damaged in play can be replaced without further ado, after first discussing it with your playing opponent, if any. This doesn’t happen nearly as often as it did 20 years ago, when a balata-covered ball could split in half if you looked at it the wrong way.

Golfers who play the game for a living appear to have no reluctance to replace a barely used ball with a new one.

To some extent, the pros’ habit reflects the fact that they tend to hit their golf balls much harder than the rest of us. To an even greater extent, the constant replacing reflects the fact that the ball manufacturers regularly supply the pros with dozens of free golf balls.

During professional tournaments and high-level amateur competition, golfers must also make sure they keep to the same make and model golf ball during the round. The United States Golf Association provides a special local rule in the appendix to the official Rules of Golf for just this purpose. If you used a Titleist Pro V for your first tee shot, the rest of your golf shots that day better also be smacking a Pro V.

If not, the penalty can be a loss of up to two holes in match play, and up to four strokes in medal play. In addition, if the golfer uses the wrong ball on the next teeing opportunity after discovering the breach, disqualification is the ultimate penalty imposed.

For regular rounds of golf, not involving the same high stakes as a professional tournament or your own club championship, the rules about switching golf balls are much simpler.  Whenever you are finished playing a hole, you can switch to another ball. Unless the one-ball rule is in effect, you can also switch makes and models all day, as long as all of the balls used are on the officially approved list of conforming golf balls.

Sometimes golfers will discover that someone else in their group is using the same make and model golf ball. As noted in a recent USGA Ruling of the Day, knowing when to make a switch for this reason also has its advantages.

In the situation discussed, players A and B discover on a par 5 that they are using the same ball, with identical markings. A knows which ball is his, however, based on where the tee shots landed. To eliminate any potential problems, he lifts his ball, substitutes another ball with different markings, and finishes the hole.


He should have waited until the hole was finished before making the substitution. Under match play, he loses the hole. In stroke play, he picks up a two-stroke penalty.

Keep these rules in mind, especially for special events such as club championships or DSGA tournaments. There might just be a special one-ball rule in place for that competition.

Local club tournament results
The Kings Creek Ladies held a Beat the Pros tournament Sept. 1, featuring club professionals Lauren Schuyler and Chris Krueger.

The ladies beating Krueger were P. Magee, M. Corbett, A. Pettitt, J. Doane, and C. Strauss. The ladies who beat Schuyler were N. Barlow, M. Mezger, M. Corbett, J. Doane, J. Dixon, B. Alwood, and L. Pini.

Anita Pettitt was closest to the pin on the fifth hole.

Shawnee Country Club held its annual Labor Day Mixed tournament Sept. 3. The team of Ray Bryan, Carlyn Bryan, Brent Rhue, and Carol Medd won the gross category with a 64.

Abe Ellison, Betty Black, Joe Croce, and Tammy Croce won the net category in the first flight with a stunning 53. The second-flight winners in the net competition were John Chadderdon, Robbin Murray, Bill Croteau, and Camille Croteau, with a nearly equally stunning 54.

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