Ball marks – also called pitch marks – are the bane of smooth-putting and healthy greens on golf courses all over the world. They’re the little depressions, or craters, sometimes made when a golf ball descends from the sky and impacts the putting surface.
Repairing those little depressions is very important. Equally important is doing it the right way. Because while many golfers fail to repair ball marks – and shame on you if you are one of them – there are also many well-meaning golfers who do “repair” the pitch marks, only to do so incorrectly.
A ball mark can cause the grass in the depression to die, leaving not just a scar but also a pit in the putting surface that can knock well-struck putts offline. Repairing a ball mark restores a smooth surface and helps keep the grass healthy.
So, let us all start fixing our ball marks, and doing it the right way. And if you have a moment – if there isn’t another group of golfers behind you waiting for you to clear the green – fix one or two other ball marks, too, if you find more of them on the green.
Repairing ball marks isn’t just important for the health of the greens, and for smooth-rolling putts. It isn’t just a matter of golf etiquette. It is our obligation to help take care of the golf courses we play. And repairing ball marks is a big part of that obligation to the game.
Below are illustrations courtesy of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and text explaining the right way to fix ball marks.
The ball mark repair tool is the right tool for the job of repairing ball marks. The tool should be familiar to every golfer; it’s a simple tool, just two prongs on the end of a piece of metal or hard plastic and is an essential piece of equipment that every golfer should have in his or her golf bag.
The first step in repairing ball marks is to take your ball mark repair tool and insert the prongs into the turf at the edge of the depression. Note: Do NOT insert the prongs into the depression itself, but at the rim of the depression.
The next step is to push the edge of the ball mark toward the center, using your ball mark repair tool in a “gentle twisting motion,” in the words of the GCSAA. This is the step where golfers who incorrectly “repair” ball marks usually mess up. Many golfers believe the way to “fix” a ball mark is to insert the tool at an angle, so the prongs are beneath the center of the crater, and then to use the tool as a lever to push the bottom of the ball mark back up even with the surface. Do not do this! Pushing the bottom of the depression upward only tears the roots, and kills the grass. So remember:
Wrong: Using the prongs as levers to push up the bottom of the depression.
Right: Using the prongs to push grass at the edge of the depression toward the center.
Just use your ball mark repair tool to work around the rim of the crater, so to speak, pushing the grass at the edge toward the center of the depression. One way to envision this is to picture reaching down with your thumb and forefinger on opposite sides of the ball mark and “pinching” those sides together.
Once you’ve worked around the rim of the ball mark with your repair tool, pushing the grass toward the center, there’s only one thing left to do: Gently tamp down the repaired ball mark with your putter or foot to smooth the putting surface.
Then admire your work and pat yourself on the back for helping to take care of the golf course.