Rules in Focus - No more golf balls

Rules in Focus

No more golf balls

American golfer John Daly created a bit of a stir when he walked off the course during the first round of the recent Australian Open at The Lakes Golf Club.

After hitting six balls into the water at the 11th, the 1995 Open Champion shook hands with playing partner Craig Parry before walking off the course claiming he had run out of golf balls.

Unlike golf clubs, where a player is restricted to a maximum of 14, the Rules of Golf do not place a limit on the number of balls that may be carried or used during the round. So Daly could have carried more in his bag in the first place if he wanted to.

Furthermore, although a player must not borrow a club from an opponent or fellow-competitor, he is allowed to borrow a golf ball. A player who runs out of balls may get a new supply from any source, provided he does not unduly delay play in the process (Rule 6-7).

As is common at the elite level, the “List of Conforming Golf Balls” condition was in place at the Australian Open, i.e. the ball the player plays must be named on the current list of conforming golf balls issued by The R&A. A complication in Daly’s case was the fact that the "One Ball Condition" was also in place.

This One Ball condition specifies that the ball the player uses must be of the same brand and type as detailed by a single entry on the current List of Conforming Balls (see Appendix I, Part C of the Rules of Golf). Therefore, if Daly was supplied with more golf balls he would have had to ensure that the ball was the exact same brand and model as he had been playing up to that point in his round, he could not switch to a different type of ball, not even a different type made by the same manufacturer.

It is recommended that the One Ball Condition is only introduced in competitions involving expert players as most amateur golfers are not expected to have golf balls which consist entirely of the same brand and type. So, for the vast majority of play in the world there is absolutely no problem with playing different types of balls throughout the round – the balls must simply conform with the Rules (Rule 5), that is all. If you change your ball between holes there is no requirement to inform your opponent of fellow-competitors. However, it is often good practice to do so and it can avoid any unnecessary confusion later in your round.  

As for “x-out”, “refurbished” and “practice” balls, in general, these are perfectly acceptable to use.

“X-out” is the common name used for a golf ball that a manufacturer considers to be imperfect (usually for aesthetic reasons only: for example, paint or printing errors) and, therefore, has crossed out the brand name. A “refurbished” golf ball is a second-hand ball that has been cleaned and stamped as “refurbished”.

John DalyIn the absence of strong evidence to suggest that an “x-out” or “refurbished” ball does not conform to the Rules, it is permissible for such a ball to be used.

However, in a competition where the Committee has adopted the condition that the ball the player uses must be named on the List of Conforming Golf Balls, such a ball may not be used, even if the ball in question (without the “x”s or without the “refurbished” stamp) does appear on the List.

In most cases, “practice” balls are simply listed conforming golf balls that have been stamped “PRACTICE” (for example, just like a ball with a golf club’s logo). Such balls may be used even where the Committee has adopted the condition that the ball the player uses must be named on the List of Conforming Golf Balls.