For many amateurs, like myself, who pay for their golf balls, I try to play my them for as many holes as possible. It is not that I am really cheap, but $5.50 Cdn a golf ball can get expensive if I willy-nilly change my golf all. This propensity to use my golf ball as long as possible leads to a less that favourable playing condition for my white gold. Hence, I pay attention to when I can replace my ball and when I cannot. Not surprisingly, there is a rule that covers this topic and one that if you are in competition is very important.
Before delving into the details, here is the result of a poll I made on Twitter a few days ago:
I want to thank Keith Cook for the inspiration for this article and providing the rule that covers this top.
First, in between holes you can change your ball before teeing up. It does not have to be the same make or model, but should be declared that you are changing your ball so your playing partners know what ball to look for when you hit it into the woods. 😉 Also, make sure you put your personal identifying mark on the ball once you change. There does not need to be a reason for the change, as long as you do not put your new ball into play.
Next, once play has started there are limitations to replacing your golf ball. Basically, rule 4.2c(2) states that you can only replace your ball if it is cracked or cut. As Keith indicates, it is easy to identify a ball with a major defect by its ball flight and sometimes sound. The fact that it is scuffed or discoloured does not entitle the player to make the change. This rule is very important during competition.
About 30 years ago I was playing in a tournament when a my playing partner wanted to change his ball before his approach shot into the green. He showed me the scuff on the ball and said that he was entitled to change the ball according to the rules. Not really knowing the details of this particular rule, I obliged his request and never gave it a second thought. On a side note, changing the ball did not help his approach shot and he walked away with a double bogey. Back to my memory; it was a few days after the tournament that I struck up a conversation with the local professional, Gary Corriveay, at Circle Pines Golf Course (now called Borden Golf Club) where he indicated that I was wrong to allow him to change his golf ball. He explained the rule and as I thought about he was saying, I realized that I needed to learn the rules better if I was going to play competitive golf. And over the next few years, that is exactly what I did and still do.
This rule might seem like a minor inconvenience, however, imagine if you could drive with a distance ball, change to a softer feel ball for your approach shots, and a third ball for your putting. I bet it would make a difference in your overall score. I realize that we still need to hit the ball consistently, but we would gain a tremendous advantage if we could switch balls out on a whim.
As an amateur playing a friendly, I bet you have broken rule 4.2c(2) and for the most part it does not really matter. I am certain I have over the years. By not knowing rule 4.2c(2), 30 years ago I disadvantaged myself and field. But know longer, I have made a conscious decision to know the rules to ensure that my lack of knowledge is not a factor in the future events.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!