What Is The Ruling For If You Run Out Of Golf Balls During Your Round?

Have you ever ran out of golf balls whilst playing a round out on the course?

Stenson finds his ball in the water
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We've all had those days on the golf course where nothing seems to be going right. Your driver is flying all over the place, your irons are barely getting off the ground and your wedges seem to have a small sweet spot on them that you can't seem to find.

After putting yet another ball in the lake, you look into your bag to find the one lone golf ball that is left. You carry on playing, but all of a sudden you hit a shot that sees said ball fly into the woodlands, never to be seen again. Now, what are your options? Could you carry on playing, or are you now disqualified? Find out the ruling here.

Golfer picks ball out from water

It maybe worth packing an extra few golf balls in your bag when you head out to the course

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So, what happens if you do run out of golf balls whilst out on the course? Well, under Rule 4.2: A player can “get a conforming ball to play from anyone else, including another player on the course”.

It could be your playing partner, or perhaps someone you’ve never seen before. If they’re happy to hand a ball over to you – as long as it’s conforming – you can thank them for their generosity and play on.

This incident happened at the 2022 Hoag Classic, when Rick Groboski ran out of balls. At first, the American thought he had six in his golf bag. However, on closer inspection, it turned out he only had three. After putting all of them into the water, he was forced to borrow one from his playing partners. In the end, Groboski waited for a guy to bring some out to him so he could complete his round.

Person pulls out golf balls from a lake

Have you ever ran out of golf balls during a round?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The PGA Tour obviously implements this rule. However, there is also the 'one-ball rule' which professionals must follow. This rule means that players can only use one specific brand and model of ball during a round. The penalty for using a different model is two strokes per hole that the ball is used, with a maximum of eight strokes.

At the 2019 Mayakoba Classic, Russell Henley was hit with an eight shot penalty (two for each breach) after he realised he’d used a slightly different model of ball on four holes.

Matt Cradock
Matt Cradock

Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.