Why do golfers sometimes place a token or coin on the green?
May 2, 2009 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Why do golfers sometimes place a token or coin behind the ball? I know almost nothing about golf, but I've started watching it on a new HDTV as I find it beautiful to watch in Hi Def. I just watched a player putt to within 5-6 feet. He put a token on the green right behind the ball, picked up the ball for a second, then replaced the ball where it was, removed the token and made the putt. What is the reason for this?
posted by markjamesmurphy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
It's often so that someone farther away from the pin can put and not be interfered by their ball. The marker doesn't affect the course of the other player's ball.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:46 PM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: That would make sense to me if someone else took a turn before his final putt, but in this case he immediately made another putt - I guess that's the part that confused me
posted by markjamesmurphy at 2:49 PM on May 2, 2009

Magic of TV editing, perhaps?
posted by Benjy at 2:50 PM on May 2, 2009

clean the ball before the final putt?
posted by ddaavviidd at 2:51 PM on May 2, 2009

Did he clean the ball? It's usually to mark the ball's position while doing something else.
posted by Brockles at 2:51 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: If th ball's within a certain distance of the hole, they can make another shot rather than stepping aside for their partner to play. They sometimes mark the ball while they're deciding whether to go ahead and finish playing the hole. I think that's what you just saw - Mickelson on 18 deciding to get it over with.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:53 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: In your situation, the golfer marked his ball so he could pick it up, check it and clean it if necessary. It's really done as part of a mental routine when approaching a putt: mark, check, replace, make the putt.

Marking also ensures that one golfer's ball doesn't get in the way of a playing partner's putt, and prevents, say, a gust of wind from disturbing a ball at rest. (The USGA's Rule 20 applies.)
posted by holgate at 2:55 PM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: It was Mickelson. Thanks for the answers, this is my first Ask MeFi, you guys are awesome. I hope it wasn't too lame of a question.
posted by markjamesmurphy at 2:56 PM on May 2, 2009

For many it's a nervous habit, kind of like the ritual some baseball batters go through at the plate before every pitch.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:06 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I do it to clean the ball. Sand, dirt, grass and other debris affects how the ball rolls, and is unseen if its on the underside of the ball.

(I suck so badly at golf that I'm sure this makes no difference in my game, but I do it anyway.)
posted by The Deej at 3:28 PM on May 2, 2009

Also some marks that players put on their ball help to line up your putt. You have to mark the ball in order to move the ball to the correct position. If you move your ball without a mark, you can be penalized a stroke.
posted by snoelle at 8:35 PM on May 2, 2009

When I first began playing golf, over 40 years ago, the golf ball wasn't as durable as it is now. The approach shot to the green, often made with an iron, could sometimes cut the skin of the ball, rendering it unusable. In fact, in order to impart the backspin or stopping action that you see the pros put on a ball as it lands on the green, a player used to try to cut the ball with a chopping swing in order to increase the spin. So for many years, another reason to mark your ball on the green was to allow the replacement of a damaged ball. One final observation for a newcomer, some golfers use one particular ball in their bag just for putting. Not all balls roll perfectly but you can determine balls that are more round through some simple testing. Some golfers swear by the notion that they putt better because they have a perfectly round ball. But mostly, as mentioned above, it's a mental thing meant to give the golfer some time to calm down and concentrate.
posted by birdwatcher at 8:41 AM on May 3, 2009

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