What Happens If A Golfer Runs Out Of Balls?

What happens if a golfer runs out of balls during a tournament?

It depends on the specific rules of that tournament, but on the PGA Tour, there is no penalty for running out of balls (assuming the golfer is able to procure a new ball from another player).

If the tournament is using the one ball rule, the golfer will need to get a replacement ball of the exact same brand and model that he or she was using before. That means a golfer playing a Titleist Pro V1 can only continue their round if they find another Pro V1 to match their original ball.

That’s the simplest answer, but there are some scenarios where running out of golf balls could be a real problem.

To help you understand some of the ins and outs of this question, let’s dive in further.

Options for a Professional Golfer Who Runs Out of Balls

Option 1 – Ask a Playing Partner for Additional Golf Balls.

It’s safe to say that a PGA professional will show up on tournament day with enough golf balls to complete their round, but sometimes things go sideways (can I get an “amen”) and a player may be forced to scramble (pun intended).

There’s a famous Steve Williams and Tiger Woods story where Tiger was down to his last golf ball, which is proof that even the legends can find themselves in a pickle.

Recommended Reading: How Many Balls Can a Pro Golfer Carry?

If a pro golfer runs out of balls, the simplest solution is to ask their playing partner to borrow a ball or two.

However, the other player is under no obligation to lend them a golf ball. This gives golfers a reason to stay on good terms with their opponents, even in the most heated stroke play or match play event.

The replacement balls must adhere to the PGA’s approved list, but other than that, there are no restrictions.

Recommended Reading: Golf Ball Size Guidelines

Option 2 – Send Someone to Get More Golf Balls.

Again, this solution is quite reasonable. The caddie, a loyal fan or a trusty friend can come to the rescue.

The only catch is that the golfer can’t cause an undue delay in the round. Slowing down the round can lead to a penalty stroke or some other consequence. More on that later.

Worth Noting

  • Both of these solutions assume the one ball rule is not in effect.
  • Players are welcome to share a golf ball in professional events, but never allowed to share a golf club.

A competitive amateur golfer doesn’t need to live by these guidelines, but these are the conditions that Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy play under.

Local rule may vary for tournaments, so be sure to check with the event coordinator before you listen to an outside influence like me. I can’t really be trusted.

Better yet, make sure you have plenty of golf balls and stay out of any penalty area. That’s an easier way to prevent headaches.

Can a Pro Be Disqualified if They Run Out of Golf Balls?

Yes and no.

If another player refuses to give share some golf balls, their villainous actions could create a scenario where penalties need to be assessed.

Those penalties are usually a stroke (or two), but they could have a snowball effect that eventually leads to a disqualification (or not making the cut).

Back in a 2019 European Tour event, Eddie Pepperell faced this situation. He notified his playing partners, which included Martin Kaymer and George Coetzee, that he had a golf ball situation. He was disqualified from the event for not completing the hole.

Martin Kaymer said that Pepperell didn’t even ask to borrow a ball. After multiple shots in the water on the same hole, it appeared that Pepperell was ready to call it a day. It was a “Tin Cup” (or Antonio Brown) moment. I don’t know how he didn’t launch his club into the water, but that’s just me.

But back to the question at hand. Even if the other golfer is willing to share, the one ball rule in some tournaments could complicate things. As I mentioned earlier, this rule stipulates that players must use one brand and one model of golf ball throughout the entire round.

If an exact match can’t be found, it’s game over.

Why Don’t Pro Golfers Carry More Balls?

It’s not because of cost.

These guys and gals have lucrative sponsorship deals with golf ball manufacturers. Since the players ball is an ongoing advertisement for the brand, they have nearly unlimited resources at their disposal.

However, as a general rule, most pro golfers carry 9 balls in their bag. Some golfers don’t even worry about the number — they just let the caddie decide.

The 9 Ball “Rule” Isn’t an Actual Rule.

Some people think that there is a PGA-sanctioned 9 ball rule. That’s not actually the case.

In an 18 hole round, 9 golf balls is just a common choice. Golf balls typically come in sleeves of three and a pro doesn’t need to worry about a lost ball as often as an amateur does.

To save some weight, caddies often set things up so their player has one ball for every two holes. Since professional meltdowns don’t occur nearly as often as they do at your local par 3, nine balls leaves plenty of breathing room.

So you came here wondering “what happens if a golfer runs out of balls? Now you’ve been enlightened!

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