How To Mark Your Ball On The Putting Green

For the avid golfer, it’s like breathing. For the beginner, not so much. Whichever you are, it’s always good to refresh. We’ve got you covered under Rule 13

Close up of a golfer placing a marker behind a golf ball on the putting green
(Image credit: Future)

When Is It Allowed?

In order to understand how to mark your ball, we first need to understand when your ball is deemed to be on the putting green. Your ball is determined to be on the putting green when any part of it touches the putting surface or lies on or in anything (such as a leaf) and is inside the edge of the putting green.

How Do I Do It?

Once you have determined that your ball is on the green, you may now begin the process of marking your ball. All you need to do is place your ball-marker directly behind the ball and then you may pick it up.

Whilst a ball marker is commonly a coin, it can be any artificial object that helps you spot the ball. It’s not uncommon for people to use tee pegs, poker chips or even alignment aids. Keep in mind though, whichever object you chose must be one which results in you returning the ball in the exact location and must not be affected by the elements (e.g. blown away by the wind). With etiquette in mind, it’s best not to have something overly distracting too.

Why Should I Do It?

The reason we mark our ball is so we can then pick it up and clean it before putting. That way we have the best opportunity of a pure roll and ultimately holing the putt. We also do it so our playing partners have a clear line of play.

What If My Ball Marker Is In The Way?

If your ball-marker is on your opponents line of intended play, you are permitted to move it. To do so, simply pick a fixed spot in the distance (such as a tree) and use your putter head as a means to measure where to move your ball marker to. The width of your putter head usually does the trick however, you can do it as many times as you need. Once your opponent has finished their stroke, reverse the process so the ball is back in its original position.

What If I Do It Wrong?

The rules of golf changed a lot in 2019 and gave a lot more leniency on the greens. There is no longer a penalty if you accidentally cause your ball or ball marker to move during the entire process. You must however, return the ball or ball-marker to its original spot prior to your stroke.

If, however, you lift your ball without marking its spot, mark its spot in the wrong location prior to making a stroke or even make a stroke with the ball marker in place, you will receive a one stroke penalty. If you fail to return your ball to the exact spot as to when you marked it and subsequently make a stroke you will receive a general penalty – Two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

Lexi Thompson paid the price at the 2017 ANA Inspiration for the latter. Check it out...

James Hibbitt

James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.