During my time at Hazeltine, ballmarks on greens have been a frequent critique. Unfortunately, they are an inherent part of the game. What is fortunate is that when properly repaired, a ballmark’s impact to a putting surface can be dramatically limited. Before talking about the proper way to fix a ballmark, I want to add some commentary on ballmarks in general. I do this in the form of FAQs.
How come we have so many ballmarks?
- We get a solid amount of play, but beyond just shear number of rounds, our membership is made up of exceptionally skilled golfers. Better golfers hit more greens and make more ballmarks.
It seems we’ve had more ballmarks this year than in the past.
- This is down to the weather. Firmer greens have less ballmarks and firm greens are directly tied to moisture content and the summer of 2019 has been constantly wet. There hasn’t been a point in this season in which the greens were firm enough to resist ballmarks. During the course of a golf season, it would be typical for us to see anywhere from two to four weeks during which the greens are dry enough and firm enough to leave little in the way of ballmarks. Such weather never came during the summer of 2019 and the result has been a greater number of ballmarks.
Our ballmarks never seem to heal.
- Our A-4 bentgrass is known throughout the industry to be ‘ballmark-y.’ Newer bentgrasses, of which A-4 was an early variety, have a finer texture and more upright growth habit. While these traits make for an excellent putting surface, it also means balls hitting the green do more damage and the damage heals more slowly. Our ballmarks do heal, but how fast is very much dependent on how well it has been repaired. Depending on the quality of repair, complete healing can vary from a few days to a few weeks.
What is the best way to repair a ballmark?
- The best way to repair a ballmark is to make sure the remaining turf is pressed back together as close as possible. A golfer should have the goal of leaving the smallest amount of soil showing, once the repair has been made. I made the video below repairing a ballmark, the type of which was the norm during this wet summer. You can see how I used my thumb to press the turf back toward the center as much as possible. Whether one uses their thumb, a ballmark repair tool, golf tee, or the end of their putter (another person favorite of mine), the goal is the same. Pinch the turf back together as tight as is possible. A properly repaired ballmark can heal in as little as a few days.
- A ballmark should never be repaired by ‘popping’ up the center of the mark. A mark fixed in such a manner looks like the photo below on the left and will take a few weeks or more to properly heal.
- The photo in the middle shows a ballmark repaired in a manner similar to the video above. This ballmark is likely a few days old. By pressing or pinching the turf back towards the middle, the existing plant material begins to regrow and healing comes quite quickly.
- The photo on the right shows a properly repaired ballmark after about one week or so of healing.
Ballmarks are an inherent part of golf and the etiquette of the game has always been that each golfer is responsible for repairing their own mark. Remember, a properly repaired ballmark heals quicker and heals better. Repair your mark properly. If you have time, repair another one or two in the same manner. If your playing partner(s) neglect to do so, remind them to do it properly. Hazeltine members have long taken pride in doing it better. Let’s make ballmarks one of the things we do better.