It’s a golfer’s worst nightmare. You lose a ball, reach into your bag for another, and realise that you’re down to your last.
Running out of balls – be it due to losing a hatful or simply not having enough in your bag at the start – is about as embarrassing as it gets. But what are the repurcussions if you’re playing in a competition?
Does running out of balls mean you’re out of the running? Or can you ask someone else for an emergency loan? If you’ve got the pro shop on speed dial, can you phone for an emergency ammunition supply?
Thankfully, the rules are on your side.
Decision 5 – 1/5 covers ‘Whether Player May Borrow Balls from Another Player’, addressing this question:
Q. “During a stipulated round, a player runs out of balls. May he borrow one or more balls from another player?”
A. Yes. Rule 4-4a prohibits a player from borrowing a club from another player playing on the course but the Rules do not prevent a player from borrowing other items of equipment (balls, towels, gloves, tees, etc.) from another player or an outside agency.
No one is obliged to give you balls, of course, so you’ll have to hope they’re feeling generous.
Given the above, you may be wondering how the old story that Tiger Woods nearly ran out of balls during the U.S. Open and cost himself the tournament ever came to pass. It’s down to something called the ‘One Ball’ Condition.
The ‘One Ball’ condition, when in effect, means that players are required to use one brand and model of ball for their entire round. If you start with a Callaway Chrome Soft, for example, you can’t swap to a Titleist Pro V1x after a few holes. This tends to only apply to professional and elite amateur events, but it’s worth checking before your next competitive round.
At that time, Tiger was using a special prototype Nike ball, and with his supply back in his hotel room, then-caddie Steve Williams would have needed to sprint pretty quickly to avoid a delay to play. Luckily, Tiger striped his final ball down the middle of the fairway, blissfully unaware that his bag was perilously empty.
Still, we’d recommend making sure you have enough balls in your bag for it never to be cause for concern.