Golf is a laid-back sport for some and extremely competitive for others. If you hold your buddies to the PGA Tour standards, you’re not alone. Many hobbyists adhere to PGA guidelines and rules quite strictly.
But sometimes, they end up misinterpreting certain rules and holding themselves to higher standards than pro golfers. And the PGA one-ball rule is an excellent example of that. So, how often do PGA Tour players change balls?
PGA Tour Players change balls every 5 to 6 holes. They can change their balls after every hole but don’t find it optimal. Only when the ball is in poor condition do they opt for a fresh ball. But in no way do PGA Tour players finish a game with a single ball.
The erroneous notion of PGA players playing with a single ball stems from the PGA one-ball rule, which we will cover in this article alongside other relevant information like the effects of playing with a scuffed ball and how often golfers lose their balls.
So when answering the question of how often pro golfers change balls, let’s start with the myth that is the source of most ball-related misconceptions.
PGA One Ball Rule: The Myth & the Real Rule
From the sound of it, the PGA one-ball rule seems like a rule that forces golfers to use a single ball throughout a round. In reality, it is an optional rule that has a different effect. When a committee chooses to uphold this optional rule, the golfers must stick to a single brand, model, and make of golf ball throughout the round.
Let’s suppose you start a round with a 2021 TaylorMade Distance+ Golf Ball from Amazon. If your ball gets badly scuffed and is losing its bounce, you can switch the ball after a hole.
However, it has to be the 2021 version of the same color, material, and model. You cannot switch to another TaylorMade model, even if it’s a pretty close model when the one-ball rule is in effect.
In the absence of this rule, you could start with high handicap balls like the Distance+ and then switch to balls that don’t rocket off when you get closer to the putting greens. There is a significant advantage to not having the one-ball rule in effect.
And the one-ball rule does restrict golfers quite seriously, making the game more challenging. You don’t need to make your game even more challenging by taking the “one ball” part too literally. Even professionals don’t hold themselves to that standard.
The result was that neither player walked away with their integrity intact! Ballesteros accused Azinger and his partner Chip Beck in the Friday foursomes of not following the one-ball rule. Azinger denied any wrongdoing and Ballesteros demanded the referee’s intervention, claiming that Azinger was cheating.
When the rules were checked it became clear that Azinger was within the rules and could not be penalized, he then admitted that he had changed balls!
Relationships between both teams started to deteriorate from that point so much, so the event has since become known as ‘The War on the Shore.’
Are Scuffed Golf Balls Bad?
Scuffed golf balls are not bad until you can see them performing poorly. If scuffing happens by the second hole when the ball has 3 to 4 more holes worth of optimal performance, you need to look at the degree of scuffing and the ball’s performance before switching it for a new one.
Two factors dictate whether you decide to replace a scuffed ball:
- How much it affects your performance
- Whether you can afford to replace it
Both are governed by the ‘replacement after the hole’ rule. You cannot replace a ball once you’ve struck it until the next hole. With that understood, let’s examine the two aspects that dictate the replacement.
Most golf resources would suggest that a scuffed ball doesn’t have to be removed from play. That’s a very materialistic analysis. When considering how much a scuff affects a golf ball, sometimes the scuff marks can psychologically affect the golfer. If a golfer assumes his scuffed ball is going to perform poorly, it will.
Golf is a mental sport as much as it is a physical one. So, if a scuff mark doesn’t physically affect a ball’s performance but affects the player’s perception of his performance, it can be a valid reason for the ball’s replacement.
That said, the second factor comes into play at the same time. For you to replace a scuffed ball, you need to be able to afford to do so. Given that balls get scuffed every 4 holes, you’ll have to cough up 5 golf balls each game. It is better to overcome the limiting belief that a scuffed ball ruins your game.
How Many Golf Balls Does The Average Golfer Lose Per Round?
A fairly good golfer loses 1 ball each round, while an average golfer can play four rounds and lose 5 balls. Consistently losing 2 balls per game is a mark of a novice, while losing 3 balls in a game calls for an intervention.
If your golf buddy lost two balls in a round and hasn’t admitted to your superiority, he is in denial. And if he has lost 3 balls in the absence of an active hurricane, you have every right to roast him for this.
Related: How Many Golf Balls Are Lost Each Year?
How Often Should You Change Your Golf Ball?
You should change your golf ball after you notice it is performing poorly. You must replace it when it doesn’t take well to the wedge. The only rule is that the ball has to make it into a hole before you can replace it. Whether you do it once a hole or not, even once a round, is entirely up to you.
On average, you should change the ball once it is past 5 to 9 holes, depending on the ball’s condition. Some golfers choose to switch from high-velocity balls to low-velocity balls as they approach the putting greens. In that case, you can rotate balls in your arsenal without throwing them away for good.
When Can PGA Players Change Balls?
As previously mentioned, PGA players can and do change balls, but when the one-ball rule is in effect, they cannot change their balls’ brand or make.
The only rule that universally applies is that after a ball is launched, you cannot replace it until it gets into a hole.
The hole has to be a part of the game. A ball that rolls into a random hole in the cart path doesn’t qualify for a replacement. If, as a pro player, you launch the ball out of bounds or into the water where you cannot recover it, you can change your ball but will rack up your score. A ball that you cannot recover does get replaced.
Can Pro Golfers Change Balls?
There are multiple golfing leagues, associations, and tours aside from the PGA. If you’re wondering whether the rules differ elsewhere, they do not. Rules regarding ball changing, for the most part, stay the same.
Pro golfers can change balls after a ball makes it into a hole, is unplayable, or is irrecoverable. Whether the replacement has to be the same make and model is up to the specific competition’s rules. What is considered unplayable is also decided by the individual association.
Professional golf is a very image-conscious sport. Tiger Woods chose FootJoy over Nike Golf shoes despite his Nike deal. The telecast of the Masters, where Tiger wore FootJoy shoes, didn’t show or emphasize his feet. The televised broadcast of professional golf also omits other things that affect the sport’s image, even in minute ways.
Pro golfers having their balls replaced isn’t usually televised. Add to that that most golfers choose to play the same type of ball over and over, and you get to the common misconception that the pros play with a single ball all round. That leads people to ask the following question.
Do Pro Golfers Use The Same Ball All Round?
Pro golfers don’t usually use the same ball all round, but there are examples of professional golfers who have played well over one round with the same ball.
Sandy Herd pulled off three-game wins (and a tournament victory) with the same ball. More recently, Alex Chiarella played 72 holes with the same ball.
How Many Golf Balls are PGA Players Allowed?
PGA players are allowed as many balls as they wish to carry. The game isn’t about who can take the same ball the farthest but who can be precise in the long and the short distance with his club selection and a ball of his choice. Most PGA players pack 9 balls to account for 18 holes.
Balls don’t usually perform poorly after two holes. However, they can see a dip in performance after 4 rough holes. Because of the stakes in PGA games, players prefer to err on the side of overpacking. Consequently, they get twice as many balls as the maximum they could need.
Is it Bad to Replace Balls Often?
With the rules out of the way, let’s look at how ball replacement affects your image. Given that PGA golfers replace their balls multiple times during a round, you can replace your ball without looking like an amateur.
Replacing your ball after every round looks bad but has no bearing on the game’s result. Many studies have shown that new golf balls do not necessarily go further than old ones.
As long as you replace the ball after a hole (or when it becomes irrecoverable), you are within your rights as a participant to do so. It might improve your performance or do the opposite.
You can replace a ball after it goes into a hole or becomes irrecoverable. This is valid for amateur, semi-professional, and PGA games. But replacement doesn’t always improve one’s score-to-hole ratio. You should try different replacement frequencies to see what works best for you.