Putting can be one of the most superstitious aspects of this weird and wonderful game we play. The sequence of marking a ball to clean it or get out of the line of sight of a playing partner and then replacing it can play a major factor in a golfer’s pre-shot routine. OCD tendencies can creep in, and golfers can rely heavily on their favorite marker to help them confidently coax the ball home.
I’ve run into a lot of players in my days playing, all with their own idiosyncrasies. I’ve seen ancient coins, fluorescent plastic, poker chips, ring pulls and even some mini-satellite dishes being used. And I’ve witnessed some bizarre rituals of ball marking, taking the coin out of certain pockets, kissing it, putting it down face up, positioning it to point a certain way. I must have at least 30 markers in my bag — some are gifts, some are from corporate days and some are keepsakes from courses I have played — but I inevitably always use the same old one.
In this article I’ve come up with a list of common characters and their ball-marking tendencies. Which ones are in your four-ball?
Custom Cory: We all know the guy with a “special” marker, one from Scotty’s own personal collection that color matches the paint-fill scheme on his Circle T putter. His marker is worth more money than the collective sets of clubs of his group. He keeps it in a special felt-lined pouch and looks with pride as he places it down to mark his Pro V. He name drops it a few times per round, but says very little when you putt him off the greens with your Walmart $20 special. Afterwards, he curses to himself as he climbs into his Porsche that he needs to buy an even more exclusive marker for his next round.
Namedropper Nick: Nick throws down his Augusta marker on a regular basis, usually when he is wearing his Augusta hat and shirt. “Did I tell you I was at the Masters this year?” He’ll switch it up to a Pebble Beach or a Torrey Pines marker occasionally. He’s played them all, and he has a vast and extensive collection of ball markers held in several rosewood display cabinets in his “golf cave” at home. It’s fun to watch Nick and Cory try and subtly outbrag each other.
Plastic Patrick: At the start of the round, Patrick puts his hand into his bag and pulls out a fistful of tees, markers, pitchmark repairers and pencils. His pockets bulge with so much crap that he waddles on the green, and he spends a few minutes every time looking for a marker when he needs to mark. “No wait, I got one here! Just give me a minute” as he goes through the entire contents of his pocket. And then he can’t remember which one is his when it comes to his turn to putt. “Didn’t I use a red one? No wait, that’s right, it was a yellow one!”
Superstitious Steve: Steve has been using the same quarter for the past 25 years. It has been blessed several times by the local priest. He always marks his ball heads up with the nose pointing to the target. It’s his “lucky quarter” stamped with the year he was born. Those missed two footers today were the fault of not aligning the left nostril to the hole correctly. If he ever loses that coin he will just quit golf.
Boozy Ben: Ben is a corporate golf-day specialist getting limbered up before the round with a six pack. He will generally not mark his ball, oblivious of the fact that it may be on his playing partner’s line. The “can’t you just hit ’round it?” question gets met with a death stare. So he’ll either just go ahead and finish out or mark it with a tin of beer.
Howard the Hack: He plays a lot with Boozy Ben. It seems he doesn’t possess a marker and instead uses a tee, a pitchfork or even his glove at times. He’s even been known to hawk one down on the green as a temporary marker. He’ll often ask to borrow a marker, which is fun when he and Cory play together. Cory keeps a cheap back-up marker just for Howard.
Gizmo Gary: Has just acquired a “state of the art” marker designed by NASA that has a GPS stamp that links wirelessly to his watch and tells him where his marker is on the green. It’s painted green, a design flaw, so it takes Gary forever to actually find it within 1-2 meters of where the GPS put it. Oh, Gary!
Random Ronnie: Watch out, Ronnie’s out again without a marker so instead he uses an old pitch mark or a blade of grass or his shoe to mark his ball. “Sure that’s close enough” is his regular quip as he always seems to end up a little closer to the hole when it comes to replacing his ball. When he does carry his marker, he has extremely nimble fingers and usually can make up several inches in placing his ball down somewhere nearer the marker.
Forgetful Felix: Felix enthusiastically offers to move his marker several club heads out of your line. Nothing is too much trouble to give you a little space. But of course, he will forget to replace his ball. He is often seen in the rough looking for his ball a considerable distance away from where it actually is.
Robot Ray: Ray has his pre-shot routine down pat. He keeps his magnetic white marker on his visor. The routine goes like this: mark ball, wipe it twice and replace it while aligning the logo exactly inline with his read. Then the marker goes straight back on the visor. Ray once had a breakdown when he reached up and found his marker missing. He resolved to use a stronger magnet on his visor, which helps with his OCD therapy.