Picture yourself standing on the green, slightly stooped over, you look down at your putter, the ball, then at the hole in the ground ahead of you.
Back and forth, you move your head and eyes till you can visualize the line that runs from the sightlines on the back of the putter all of the way to the cup.
This is it. You breathe in, pull back just enough to make it to the cup, and breathe out as you make contact with the ball – watching it roll towards one of your best rounds of the season.
You watch as the ball starts to move away from the hole, a slight curve caused by an off-center stroke.
Your friend, like a pro, pulls out a sharpie and draws a line on his ball, before placing it back on the mark, and sinks the putt for the win. And now you’re stuck buying a round.
Table of Contents
Why Do Pro Golfers Put A Line on Their Ball?
In short, golfers put a line on their ball to help with alignment when putting. Over the past two decades, professional golfers have begun to realize that the only way they can assure that their stroke is perfectly aligned, is if the ball has a line straight down the center.
Although some manufacturers provide line-markings on their balls, these are usually insufficient for the needs of most golfers.
In fact, most professional golfers always carry a sharpie in their pocket while on the course. Not only do the rules require the marking of each ball, but the rules specifically allow a golfer to mark their ball with a line and place it back on the green in line with their putt – so long as they use a marker when they picked the ball up.
Vernier Hyperacuity is the ability that most people have, which allows them to determine whether two lines are lined up properly or not.
This concept was used in the development of Vernier calipers, which allows a machinist to determine the accuracy of a measurement – to within 0.01 millimeters, or a thousandth of an inch.
There is a reason why every single putter available on the market today comes with sightlines.
While there are some golfers who ignore the existence of these markings, most golfers whether professional or just weekend warriors, rely on them to help with their short game.
How Do Pros Mark Their Golf Balls?
Although there are some manufacturers that produce balls already pre-marked, many professionals choose to mark the balls themselves.
Every golfer has their own technique for marking their own ball. Some golfers prefer a single line, while others choose two or even three lines. And because there are so many different colors of sharpie to choose from, many golfers choose to color-code their markings.
When the technique first started catching on, there weren’t a lot of options to produce a straight line around the center point of the ball.
As a result, many golfers drew these lines freehand. But over the years because of the popularity of the trend, a number of tools have been produced that make it easier to provide the markings of your choice.
Today, there are a number of different markers to choose from that use a variety of different inks – some of which last longer than others.
Because the ball will be on the ground while you are standing, it is important to make sure that you choose a tip that provides a large enough marking to be visible while you are standing without having to strain your eyes.
Likewise, there is a whole slew of tools and gadgets that can be brought with you on the course to help you align your markings with better accuracy than drawing freehanded.
Some of these tools may only provide you with a single slot around the circumference of the ball, while others may provide multiple slots for a variety of popular marking techniques.
Just make sure that when deciding on any particular tool, to compare the spacing with the sightlines on your putter in order to ensure the best alignment.
How to Use the Line on A Golf Ball for Putting?
It is important to remember that under rules 6-5 and 12-2, every player is required to uniquely mark their ball for identification later throughout the round.
Likewise, pursuant to rule 20-3a/2 a player is allowed to mark a line on his ball and line it up with the putt when placing it back on the green. However, the rules also require the use of a marker any time you pick the ball off of the green, otherwise, you will be met with a one-stroke penalty.
In use, if the ball has not already been pre-marked prior to the round of golf, once you are on the green you may pick the ball up provided you are using marker to identify its exact location.
Once the marker has been placed and the ball picked up, you may then add your lines according to preference. As you place the ball and retrieve your marker, you may turn the ball and line up the markings with the cup.
Assuming you are able to line up the markings accordingly, as you stand over the ball with your putter you can make the necessary adjustments to your swing so that the sightlines on the putter lineup with the ball accordingly.
Because of the Vernier hyperacuity effect, as you look down at the putter and ball you should be able to quickly identify whether the two are lined up or not.
What Are the Disadvantages of Marking Your Golf Ball with A Sharpie?
There are countless arguments both for and against the use of alignment markings on golf balls. Perhaps one of the biggest disadvantages, is that many nonprofessionals find the markings to be a distraction.
Others will simply insist that the benefits gained from this technique are so small that it’s not even worth it. Then there are others, who have a natural short game that does not require anything additional in order to make an improvement.
When marking a golf ball it is important to take into consideration, the abuse the ball actually goes through.
Manufacturers use special types of ink that are designed to handle hundreds of longshots. But the ink used in most permanent markers does not last for more than a few holes. As a result, you will find yourself having to remark your ball several times throughout the day.
Likewise, it is important to remember that to be effective the line has to go through the center point of the ball.
Because of this, it is crucial to ensure that every time the ball is remarked, the lines are consistent with one another. After all, washing the ball with chemicals to remove any ink prior to remarking the ball would not be considered best practices.
Should Golf Ball Markings Be Illegal
There are those who argue that alignment markings on balls should be legal and therefore banned from professional golf.
However, great care must be made by the Association when changing any rules regarding the marking of a ball. After all, both rules 6-5 and 12-2 require that a player must mark their ball in a uniquely identifiable manner.
It could be argued, that all markings should be done at the start of the round. But this too would also create an issue because markings are often erased through regular use and when the ball is washed between holes. As a result, most golfers have to remark their balls throughout the day.
More importantly, rule 20-3a/2 has been adopted and specifically states that a player may in fact pick up his or her ball and place an alignment mark on it, while he or she is on the green.
This rule goes on to state that when placing the ball back on the green, the player may even turn the ball and adjust it so that it is aligned with the whole – or path in the event the green has a slope to it.
There are several caveats, however. It is important to remember, that you may only pick up your ball as long as there are no other balls and motion at the time as this may interfere or otherwise influence the motion of the other ball.
You must also remember to place a marker directly behind the ball in order to identify the exact location where the ball was picked up from. A failure of a player to follow these rules when lifting their ball may result in a one-stroke penalty.
The decision to provide alignment marks on your golf ball is, for the most part, a personal one. There are those in the professional community who believe that these marks improve their short game, while others believe that it is a hindrance.
Moreover, most novice golfers will obtain negligible improvements as a result of using this technique. As with most things, the use of alignment markings does require regular practice in order to obtain the greatest benefits.