Some golfers are wondering if drawing a line on your golf ball should be banned. But why? And why now?
Golfers have been drawing a line on the golf ball for alignment on the putting green for a long time. Recently some golf ball manufacturers have sold golf balls with the line (sometimes three of them) already on them “for improved putting accuracy”.
It hasn’t necessarily ever been a big point of debate. The lines, whether added by the golfer or by the manufacturer, are perfectly legal. Or more precisely, there not illegal as it’s not explicitly dealt with in the rules of golf.
But last week a lot of golf fans were calling for the lines to be outlawed from the game.
So why now? What happened to ignite the debate?
You can blame Daniel Berger, PGA Tour player and eventual winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Berger’s putting routine consists of marking his golf ball, lining up his preferred line of play with the line on his golf ball and then hitting the putt. Berger does this every single time, and occasionally his caddie will jump in behind him to confirm the alignment.
It’s a slow and painful process to watch. With Berger contending for the trophy on the most-watched, most-lucrative golf tour on the planet, this routine was played over and over and it annoyed a lot of people watching. And many of them took to Twitter to get it off their chest.
The most vocal critic came from Golf.com’s Laz Versalles which you should read. Versalles argues that the rules of golf prohibit any object being used for alignment, and the golf ball is an object.
The Rules of Golf are clear on objects used for alignment. From Rule 10-2b (2): “The player or caddie must not set an object down anywhere on or off the putting green to show the line of play.” When a player sets down an object — like a line on a ball — to show the line of play, that, in effect, violates Rule 10-2b, or at the very least the spirit of Rule 10-2b. (The rules-makers will tell you that they don’t believe a marking is an object, even if that credo is not explicitly spelled out in the rule book. Therefore, they contend, aligning a ball with either a Sharpie line or manufacturer’s logo isn’t a breach of 10.2b (2).)
Distinguishing your golf ball with a mark to help identify your golf ball is actively encouraged in the Rules of Golf (Rule 6-3a).
There is nothing to say you can’t mark your golf ball in any way you want.
Marking it with a line, or a row of dots or a large red arrow are all completely acceptable and golfers have been lining up the manufacturer’s name for decades now.
While I’m inclined to agree that any sort of alignment should be banned from golf, it would be very difficult to create a rule allowing players to identify their own ball, while prohibiting it as an alignment aid.
It doesn’t make it any easier to watch slow players do it though and I’m more inclined to agree with a few pundits who simply think the whole thing just falls into the category of slow play. Or bad “flow” as the USGA sometimes puts it.
I’ve seen plenty of golfers use this same technique without playing slowly and I’d prefer to see the professional tours step up and just start penalising slow play.
By no means will this be the end of the debate about lines on golf balls, but I don’t think it’s something that will be banned any time soon.
And don’t hold your breath for any action on slow play either.
The line on the ball is a red herring. Lots of people use the line to align putts and play quickly but Berger is just painfully slow.
— Wayne Kozun (@wayner99) February 14, 2021