Golf Ball Markers – Complete Guide 2024

Golf Ball Markers are essential to avoid a one stroke penalty! Did you know you cannot pick up your ball on the putting green without using a marker? So if you definitely need one, why not choose something special such as a limited edition design, a souvenir of your visit to a major tournament? They can be custom-made, have alignment aids and there is even a society of Golf Ball Marker Collectors!

As always in golf, there are some strict rules on what counts as a ball marker … but you may be surprised by what they are and what you can actually legally use!

Quick to Read

  • Golf ball markers are used to mark your ball’s position on the green when you want to pick it up and place it back in the exact same spot. For example, when you want to clean the ball, align it ready for your putt, or if your ball is in the way of another player.
  • There are some strict and strange rules about what a ball marker can be. It has to be artificial and a small piece of equipment. Yes, a beer can counts as a piece of equipment! Certain extra rules apply if you use a marker for alignment.
  • Golf ball markers can be branded, personalized or magnetic that can attach to your hat!
  • Remember to leave your marker on the green until your ball is placed, or you will face penalty points.
  • See my articles on Custom-Made Golf Ball Markers, Alignment Golf Ball Markers and the Golf Ball Marker Collector.

What is a Golf Ball Marker?

golf ball marker is a small flat object used on the putting greens to ‘mark the spot’ where your ball lies. It has to be ‘artifical’ and a ‘small piece of equipment’ so no leaves, twigs or stones, but a can of beer will be ok!

What can you use as a Golf Ball Marker?

The USGA defines a ball marker as something artificial and a ‘small piece or equipment’. This means you can’t use anything natural, such as a leaf, twig, or stone! Why? That’s just golf rules at their finest! If you do, that is a one-stroke penalty.

Brian Barnes used a can of beer!

Why use a Golf Ball Marker?

Golf Ball Markers are used to maintain the position of the ball when it is lifted up and needs to be replaced in the same spot.

They are used when you want to lift up the ball for cleaning (especially for me in winter) or to align it for a putt using the built-in markings on the ball. You can also lift it to add your own marking for alignment.

Markers are also used when your golf ball might be in the way of another player’s putt.

How to use a Golf Ball Marker?

  1. They are only used on the putting green.
  2. Use your marker to spot the ball’s position by placing it directly NEXT to the ball. It can be behind, by the side or in front.
  3. Once marked, pick up your ball, allowing other players a clear path to putt.

What can you use as a golf ball marker – including a shoe!

The Rules of Using a Golf Ball Marker

Rule 14 : When playing golf, the golf ball marker has a simple but critical role: it marks the position of your ball on the green, allowing it to be lifted and cleaned or to make way for other players’ balls.

  • Placement: Position your marker NEXT to your ball. Most players place it directly behind the ball, but it can also go to the side. The rules state you can place it in front too as long as it is next to the ball!
  • Object to Use: You can use anything from a simple coin to a poker sized chip, or even a magnetic marker that attaches to a clip on your hat. I would not suggest a tee though as it can cause damage to the green and trouble if a ball hits it on the way to the hole!
  • Ensure the marker stays still until you place the ball where it was originally. Only after the ball is back on the green should you remove the marker, or you will get a penalty point!

Penalty points happen if you incorrectly mark or replace your ball. For more details see the Florida State Golf Association. It also give details about ball markers with alignment markings – see below.

Ball-makers with alignment aids (lines, arrows, etc.)

Rules in Jan 2020 clarified that most normal sized ball-markers with alignment lines are allowed – if they follow the rules below:

  • Less than one inch in height
  • Less than two inches in any horizontal direction
  • Must not measure or gauge slope, green speed, or other conditions

Anything else is considered an “alignment device” and if used will earn the General Penalty (loss of hole in match play and two strokes in stroke play). The second time results in disqualification!

Types of Golf Ball Markers

With the rule of using anything ‘artificial’ and a ‘small piece of equipment’ as a golf ball marker, you can get really creative!

Personalized or Custom Golf Ball Markers

Use your name, the name of your favorite sports team or even your favorite Rolex (!) to create a personalised marker. See my full article on Custom Golf Ball Markers.

Alignment Golf Ball Markers

The latest markers now have alignment aids – normally three straight lines to help you with your putting. See my article on the latest alignment golf ball markers.

Magnetic Golf Ball Markers

Having a magnet means they can be attached to belt, bag, or even your hat or glove – see below. Easy to find without having to look through the bottom of your bag.

Hat Clip Golf Ball Markers

These usually come as magnetic markers that can be easily attached & removed from a clip which attaches to your hat.

Novelty or Funny Golf Ball Markers

Isn’t it strange how the most popular markers tend to be rude?! Of course, they were all bought as gifts …

Divot Tool & Bottle Opener Golf Ball Markers

Combine your divot tool with a built-in ball marker. Better still, it can come with a bottle opener for your beer too!

Gloves with Ball markers

Gloves are available with removable ball markers built-in to the outside of the velcro strap. Personally, I’m not sure how good they would be for high-swing speed players, but they would be ok for my swing speed!

Collecting Golf Ball Markers

There are great ball marker designs out there. As companies customize marker for special events, there will be a lot of unique and limited editions. Who knows, that ball marker may be worth a lot of money in the future. See my full article on Golf Ball Marker Collectors.

Golf Ball Marker Displays

So what do you do if you collect golf ball markers? Of course, you need somewhere to display them!

There are some great designs out there which can be hung on a wall or displayed on a shelf.

As makers come in all different shapes and sizes, yo may need a stand up board with slots, a metal board fo rthe magnetic markers, or even a plain board and some glue dots.

Whichever you decide,

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if another ball hits my marker?

Rule 11.1b (2) says that when a ball in motion played from the putting green hits a ball marker, the stroke counts and the ball is played as it lies. So, carry on as normal!

What happens if my marker is in the way of another player’s ball?

Your marker can be moved one or two club heads away. 
A player can also ask you to move your marker using the same rule as lifting a ball – Rule 15.3c.

Geoff - everything golf cart

I’m Geoff – Short Game ‘Expert’ and Golf Coach.
(only because I play 9-hole 4 times a week, and I love passing on my favorite Pete Cowen tips to friends & family)
My most memorable golf experience – racing through the streets of Hong Kong in a golf cart to catch the next ferry!