How to Look at a Golf Ball Marker

A brass-coin golf ball marker, created by Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club. The coin is blue, gold and white. The club logo is shown in white alongside a brown and green acorn in the centre. In the outer edges of the coin is the colour blue, with gold leafage.
Image 1. Golf Ball Markers, Personal Photo, February 8, 2022. © Matthew Hanick

In 1952, the United States Golf Association and the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) changed the rules of golf drastically, allowing players to lift their ball at rest from the putting green. This rule made obsolete the stymie­—the situation in which a player’s ball lay behind or was blocked by another player’s ball. No longer would golfers have to putt around or pop-over another player’s ball; now, they could hold the golf ball in their hands, take turns putting, and even clean it. Before picking up the ball, however, a player must mark the spot of their ball by placing a ball marker right behind or right next to the ball.

While there are plenty of rules designating how the ball marker is to be used in play—many of which can result in a one-stroke penalty—very few rules dictate the nature of the marker itself. The rules of golf describe the marker as “an artificial object … used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment.” A ball-marker, then, is typically any small, flat object. While most professional players stick to using a quarter, local pro-shops worldwide create and design their own individual ball-markers as collective memorabilia. As such, the golf ball marker has become something of an art unto itself, serving a purely aesthetic function despite little practical use in the sport..

Souvenir ball-markers began as hand-painted brass coins, (see Image 1., top left). The coin is coloured to match the course symbol.The front and back of the coin indicate the name of the course, the course’s symbol, and the year the course was established. Although the design of each marker will vary, it will likely always contain this much information. The marker’s front and back are connected by a similar but contrasting design, rearranging the display of information and colour scheme. More recently, pro-shops have begun to create souvenir ball markers made of metal that feature a removable magnetic centrepiece (see Image 1., right). Where the souvenir ball marker may be too large or cause inference with another player’s ball, the removable centrepiece—roughly the size of a dime—will often suffice instead.

Image 2. Golf Ball Markers, Personal Photo, February 8, 2022. © Matthew Hanick

Another new feature common among ball markers is information on each golf course hole. From the centre of the marker outward are divided lines split into two sections (see image 2.) The first section shows the length of the course, from the tee to the hole, in yards. At the furthest edge of the marker, the second set of numbers provides information on the average par for each hole.

If you watch any live coverage of a national golf tournament, you will likely notice the recurring pantomime in which players mark their spot, but not the marker itself. The function of the ball marker is terribly insignificant to the overall game of golf itself. And yet, these small coins have undergone an entire aesthetic reinvention, right before our very eyes.

© Copyright 2022 Matthew Hanick, Ryerson University

Works Cited

Image 1. and 2. Golf Ball Markers, Hanick, Matthew, 2022

“Rules of Golf.” Golf Canada, Accessed 8 Feb 2022

“Rules and Interpretations.” USGA,!ruletype=pe&section=rule&rulenum=1. Accessed 8 Feb 2022