Do Pro Golfers Use A New Ball On Every Hole?

Most have sufficient supplies of ammo to do so, but do they need, or bother to?

do pro golfers use a new ball on every hole
Time for a change?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For most of us mere mortals, a golf ball is a prized possession that we will hang onto for dear life. The phrase “I got round with the same ball” is one we are only rarely able to use and to achieve the feat is a badge of honour.

Apart from anything, golf balls are not cheap – It’s anywhere up to £4.50 every time you break a new one out of the sleeve. Until one is battered into submission, the average amateur’s objective is to hold on to it and use it until they lose it.

How Often Do Pros Change their ball?

Rickie Fowler

Is Rickie going to change his ball?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pro golfers are a little different. The smallest fractions can make all the difference at the top level and an imperfection on a golf ball will often cause them to reach for a new one. Golf balls are generally available to them (effectively) free, so cost is not a factor in their decision-making process when it comes to making a change.

Most pros will change their golf ball every few holes if they don’t see any obvious signs of damage. If they fire one off a tree or a cart path, they’ll likely change it on the next hole. If the damage is extreme, they may even be able to change it mid hole, placing a new ball on the original ball’s spot.

Under The Rules of Golf, Rule 4.2c says “The player may substitute another ball only if it can be clearly seen that the original ball is cut or cracked and this damage happened during the hole being played – but not if it is only scratched or scraped or its paint is only damaged or discoloured.”

There are pro golfers who will play with a new ball on every single hole but mainly through superstition rather than requirement – 2002 PGA Champion and Sky Sports commentator Rich Beem used to do so.

Would A Pro Ever Keep The same ball for 18 holes?

When Jordan Spieth won the Emirates Australian Open in 2014, he used the same ball for all 18 holes in his winning round of 63. So, yes, pros do occasionally use the same ball for a full round. It doesn't happen often though.

There are even stories of players keeping the same ball for a full tournament. Back in the day, Sam Snead used the same Spalding Ball for 72 holes to win the 1945 Los Angeles Open. More recently Alex Chiarella won the 2019 Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open on the Mackenzie Tour using the same Titleist 1 for all 72 holes. He felt the ball had “good mojo.”

But that would be a huge rarity these days. Most pros, even at the lower levels, are given balls by their equipment sponsor and they will make the most of that offering by changing balls a good few times each round. Ernie Els changes his ball every time he makes a birdie. Rory McIlroy changes his ball every couple of holes.

Different Courses, Different Approaches

The type of course the pros are playing on may affect how many times they change ball. If it’s a course demanding a number of hard wedge shots, more likely to scuff a ball, then they may change it more frequently. Padraig Harrington has talked about doing that in the past.

The answer then to the question, do pro golfers use a new ball on every hole? They certainly can do and a very few of the more superstitious or scrupulous may do. The majority though will change when they deem it necessary, generally every few holes.

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Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?