Ball Markings


It might seem like an insignificant dot or line, but marking your ball could be the mental or technical key to your golf game, writes Ian Triggs

When playing in competition, we are all required to have our own specific marks on our ball for ownership and identification purposes.

Some players take this as an opportunity to express their creative side, marking their ball in funky, colourful and unusual ways.

However, some players have taken ball marking to a higher level, using the mark as a tool to improve their own game.

The purpose for some of the markings I’ve seen may be of interest to you.

In 1988, I was with Dr Noel Blundell, one of Australia’s leading sports psychologists, when he was working with Roger Davis before the Bicentenial Classic at Royal Melbourne. Roger was struggling with his game and Dr Blundell came up with the plan to put a dot on the ball to improve Roger’s quality of mental involvement. Roger wasn’t hitting his full shots at his usual high level, and he was in big trouble with his putting- he had the dreaded yips.

So, on the range at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Roger would stop, pick up the ball, mark a dot on it with his felt pen, then place it back down with the dot facing up. He would then proceed to focus on his shot shape and target required, walk in with his mind quiet, settle and just swing with freedom. He made sure that he was seeing the small dot disappear. He did the same quality on the putting green with the mind set and the dot. His practise sessions on the range were a lengthy affair as he went through this process – but it would soon pay dividends. The improvement was incredible and he went on to hole a three metre putt on the last hole to beat sweet-swinging Fred Couples by one stroke. The putt was so fast and to see that stroke from a player who just a few days before couldn’t take his putter back, was amazing.

While Roger used ball marking to hone his mental game, some players have found it useful for enhancing their alignment, both in training and on the green.

In this instance, a simple line on your ball is a tool that can aid in getting your putter square. If you have a putter with a line on it, you can run that line into the line on your ball. The clubface will then be at 90 degrees to the line on the ball, which gives you the opportunity to get the ball rolling along your intended start line. In training, this is an effective and simple way to practise good putter alignment.

However, it should be remembered that this doesn’t necessarily help you in judging the ideal line of the putt. After trialling this technique with a number of my players, most came to the conclusion that the line should only be a generalization of the start line. It can only be precise if everything else is as well – the breeze, the moisture, the grain, the putting surface, and of course, the stroke. In fact, the best computer on the planet – your brain – needs to be allowed to operate in a reactive way to what’s there.

If you have the opportunity to read some Bobby Jones books, you will note that he never believed in aligning the putter face up, let alone using a line marking on the ball. He would place his putter head down behind the ball with no real attention to correct alignment – for him, it came down to quality mental involvement. When he stroked the putt, what he did do was focus on a small point on the ball, similar to Roger Davis’ procedure I mentioned earlier. In that moment of focus, Bobby could feel his mind tidy up the putter face as it reacted to what he instinctively wanted and planned, hole the putt.

So, maybe that marking on your ball should be just like your fingerprint – a way to differentiate you from everyone else. But if a simple dot can quieten our minds and get our thoughts away from technique, then I’m all for it.

Enjoy your game!