Using Ball Markers & Putting Etiquette

Have you ever seen people lay down poker chips or coins behind their golf ball? Do you have to use a ball marker?  Will I get penalized if you touch the golf ball without putting a marker down?

A lot of my beginning students have no clue what a ball marker is let alone how to use one when the golf course. The action of putting a marker down behind the ball allows you to pick up the golf ball so that you can clean or position it on the putting surface. In this article, you’re going to learn how to effectively use a ball marker and understand putting etiquette around the putting surface! 

Rules of Golf- Rule 20-1 Lifting & Marking:

  • You are only able to lift your ball if you lay down a ball marker directly behind your ball.
  • The rules suggest that you use a coin or marker but you can use tees or a small impediment to put down
  • You will receive a one-stroke penalty if you pick up your ball without first marking it
  • If the ball-marker interferes with the play, stance or stroke of another player, it should be placed one or more clubhead-lengths to one side.

What Do Ball Markers Look Like

As stated in the rules, it is recommended that you use a coin or similar item to mark your ball on the green. I would recommend either using poker chips or ball markers that you are able to stick in the ground. They are cheap and you will be less likely to lose them. You can look at some here on Amazon! 

They also make ball markers that double as a divot repair tool which is really convenient and low cost. Keep them in your bag so you will always have them when you’re out on the course because it can be embarrassing when you have to ask your playing partner for a ball-marker!

Marking Your Golf Ball

So what’s even the point of picking up your golf ball if it’s not even dirty?

It helps immensely to mark your ball with lines so that it is easier to read your putt. Many of the world’s top golfers line up their putts with their markings on the ball. Look into getting something like this ball marking clip as it makes it easy to make straight lines on your ball so you can improve your putting! 

When readjusting your golf ball to line up your putt, make sure that your ball marker is down behind the golf ball or else you will be penalized!

How to Move Your Ball In Another Player’s Line

From time to time your golf ball marker will be in the way of another player’s putt.

To move your golf ball out of the way:

  • Locate a nearby landmark like a tree or house
  • Place your putter head down on the side of the ball marker pointing at your landmark
  • Pick up your ball marker and place it in front of your putter head
  • Replace the marker to its original position after your playing partner’s putt, lining it back up with your landmark

Note: Only move your marker if asked by another player! Also, they may tell you to move it 2 putter lengths away depending on where your marker is in relationship to the hole.

Putting Etiquette

The putting surface is where you spend the majority of your time when playing golf. Because of this, there is proper etiquette that needs to be followed when on the green.

Use the following checklist when you near the green:

  1. Whichever player is farthest from hole goes first
  2. Always repair your divots made on the putting surface with a divot repair tool
  3. If everyone is on the putting surface, take the flag out of the hole (2 stroke penalty if your putt hits the flagstick when you’re putting)
  4. Set the flag on the fringe or off of the putting surface so it is out of the way when putting
  5. Avoid other player’s putting lines. Walk around or step over their lines as not to disrupt the ground
  6. If a putt is long and you have difficulty seeing the hole, ask for someone to tend the flag. (Tend the flag for others if asked)
  7. Whoever finishes putting first will put the flag back in the hole after everyone has completed the hole
  8. If a putt is within a makeable distance,(tap-in range), you can elect to finish out the hole to speed up the pace of play.
  9. Make sure you and your shadow are not visible to your playing partner’s vision when they are putting.
  10. Matchplay Only: If your opponent is within a makeable distance, you can tell them to pick up their ball, trusting that they would have made it.

If you are curious on how to lower your scores around the green, I have two great articles you should check out!

  1. Master your chipping short game
  2. Putting Tips to putt like a pro


Marking your golf ball is very important when around the green. Mark before picking up your ball so that you can clean your golf ball or realign your putt. Look over some of the ball markers and repair tools  I recommended as you WILL need this equipment regardless so it’s best to save money online than at a pro shop. Lastly, review the putting surface etiquette so that you can play golf by the rules and have an enjoyable round!

If you are curious about different putting styles putting grips, check out my article on different grip options that can improve your consistency and confidence! 

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