Imagine you’re playing a round of golf. You’ve hit a fantastic tee shot on a short par three, and you’re left with a 40-foot putt… It’s hard to think of a better feeling than sinking a long, meandering putt, but it’s also hard to think of something worse than watching your ball roll toward its target, only to hit an old ball mark and spin away from the hole. Speaking of ball marks, don’t forget to repair the one you just made! Every time a ball lands on the green, there is a risk of leaving a ball mark and it takes a lot of work to fix them. Not only will the course superintendent be thanking you for the repair, but so will the golfers behind you. Contrary to popular belief, there’s a right and a wrong way to repair your ball marks, and you could be doing it wrong…
Ball mark repair is an essential part of golf course etiquette. Every golfer should be equipped with a repair tool, and with the proper repair procedure.
Ball Mark Repair Tools
When it comes to the type of tool, you have a TON of options. Turf specialists will debate the ideal repair tool, but in reality, a simple golf tee should be substantial enough to fill in your ball mark. In fact, golf tees are a low impact alternative to some of the other bulky ball mark repair tools out there. Some tools come with a ball marker as well, which is also handy once you reach the green.
Ball Mark Repair Procedure
Now the ball mark repair procedure is the part that so many golfers do incorrectly… It’s easy to forget that greens are alive, and that they are constantly working hard to repair themselves. There is a complex ecosystem at work and years of intense research has improved green performance immensely. However, greens are still susceptible to damage and disease like any other grass.
Photo Courtesy of The USGA from their video. See below!
Many golfers casually repair ball marks by sticking their tool into the ground underneath the ball mark and prying up the turf. After a quick pat-down with their foot, off they go to line up their next shot… This method of ball mark repair can wreak havoc on a green! The twisting and prying actions can tear delicate roots and actually do more damage than good.
The PROPER Procedure for Ball Mark Repair
So now we’ve established that you shouldn’t be twisting or prying the turf, but how SHOULD you be repairing your ball marks? The United States Golf Association (or USGA) put out a fantastic “For The Golfer Video” all about the proper ball mark repair procedure, and we’ve summarized the steps here, as well as included the video below! Be sure to check it out and have a look at their other videos. They have some really valuable information in them.
- Identify the “back” of the ball mark. This is the side of the mark that has all of the turf pushed up to it.
- Insert your ball mark repair tool at a 45ᴼ angle behind the mark, ensuring that the bulk of the displaced turf is between the ball mark and where you inserted the tool.
- Gently push the top of the tool towards the ball mark, moving the surrounding turf to fill in the mark.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 a maximum of 4 times or until the ball mark is completely filled. Be careful to do this gently and don’t overdo it to avoid root damage.
- Once the ball mark is filled in with the surrounding turf, gently tamp down the mark with the bottom of your putter. This should restore the putting surface with minimal damage to the bentgrass green.
- If you have time, check for other ball marks while you’re at it! There are many golfers that won’t do anything to repair their marks and your extra efforts will be greatly appreciated!
- Spread the word! If you see someone repairing incorrectly, politely inform them that they can minimize turf damage by repairing properly.
USGA Video: How to Repair Ball Marks
So next time you hit that perfect approach to a soft green, be sure to repair your ball mark properly. You might even be able to teach your fellow golfers a thing or two about repair procedure!