The Perfect Amount of Golf Balls to Carry

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If you’re like most golfers I’m sure you hate it when you lose balls.

There’s nothing worse than seeing your ball sink into a pond or disappear out of bounds. Not only will you be out $3-5 but you also have to take a penalty shot.  You may need to borrow balls if you run low.

You will need to reload and regroup in order to get the round back on track. But problems can occur if you don’t have more golf balls in your bag… especially for professional golfers.

Continue reading to find out how Tiger Woods almost got disqualified from a major by not having enough balls in his bag. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure you only use the best golf balls for your game. 

How many golf balls should you have? 

After working as an outside services attendant at a golf course in high school I can say there’s nothing worse than a heavy golf bag. Having to lug two massive bags around, largely in part to having too many golf balls, isn’t ideal. 

Needless to say, it’s a good idea to reorganize your bag and eliminate some golf balls if this sounds like you. Before getting into why you should have at least nine balls (but not much more) here’s a story that will blow your mind.

Why It Matters 

There is a story about almost not having enough golf balls that they will last forever. To give you some context, you can be disqualified or penalized if you run out golf balls during a professional tournament. It also depends on whether the one-ball rule applies to amateur events (more details later). 

Let’s rewind to the year 2000 – the middle of Tiger’s rise to superstardom. He was winning the US Open at Pebble Beach that year. That week he started using a new golf ball – the Nike Tour Accuracy. 

Tiger shot a 65 in his first round. Round two was delayed by fog. He finished Saturday around 9pm, which was the third round. He then took out some golf balls and played on his hotel floor (just as we do). This is where things get interesting…

Tiger retold Tiger the story in Golf Digest“I normally take nine to 12 balls to the course, but I only had seven left—I probably scuffed up a couple and gave them to kids. I left the three balls on the carpet; now I’ve only got four balls when I get to the course.” 

When play started on Sunday, he wasn’t aware of how many golf balls were in the bag. On the 18th hole, he dragged his tee ball left into the water. He had only one golf ball left, and water runs along the entire hole.

But his caddy didn’t tell him.

Although he could have borrowed a club from a competitor, it had to be the exact same brand and type. Because it was a ball no one on the PGA Tour had it would have resulted in disqualification or penalty strokes.

Tiger struck the driver with confidence despite his caddys insistence that he hit iron to safety. He went on to win the event. Thankfully he didn’t get DQ’d as he broke numerous records that week including winning by 15 shots!

Needless to say, it’s a good idea to have a few extra golf balls in your bag.


How Many Balls Should You Carry

As illustrated from Tiger’s story, you don’t want to deal with the frustration of not having enough golf balls. What is the right number of golf balls to carry?

Tiger said that he likes to have between 9-12 golf balls in his bag when he starts a round. I think that’s a good number as it won’t weigh down your golf bag but still give you plenty of backs ups. You have more if you do lose some and need to change your golf balls due scuffs. 

I’ve known others to treat their golf bag like a hoarding paradise and keep 2-dozen golf balls which isn’t the right move. This can make your bag heavier and take up a lot of space in your pocket. While it’s okay to keep extra in your country club locker or trunk of your car, don’t carry that many in your bag. 

Use a Shag Bag 

Instead, it’s always a good idea to have a shag bag with practice balls. The shag bag should not contain only new golf balls. It is best to keep your old ones. 


To improve your short-game practice routines.

So many golfers chip and pitch with old, dirty range balls that don’t replicate your normal golf balls. This is why you should save your non-playable balls and put them into a shag bag.

I now have a shag bag containing old Titleist Pro V1s that I use at all times in my car. They are great for practicing short game. I prefer them to driving range balls. This makes practice sessions more efficient and will result in better golf on the fairway. 

Replacing Cracked Golf Balls 

Another reason it’s a good idea to have extra golf balls is in case one cracks during the round. According to the USGA (rule 42), “If you reasonably believe that your ball has been cut or cracked while playing a hole, you may lift it to check. 

You must first mark the spot on the ball, then lift it without cleaning it (except for the putting green). If you lift your ball without having this reasonable belief, fail to mark the spot of the ball before lifting it, or clean it when not allowed, you get one penalty stroke.”

Remember to mark your golf ball before you pick it up if there is a crack. If it’s only scratched or scraped you must continue playing the same ball until the hole is over. 

FAQs about golf balls

Do you have any questions about what to put in your bag for golf? Continue reading to find out more. 

What is the one-ball rule? 

The one-ball rule states that you must use the same brand, model, and colour golf ball every time. If you lose a ball or need to replace a damaged ball, you can’t switch the make or model. 

Here is the formal definition. USGA. “The one ball rule is an optional condition that Committees may choose to use. If this rule applies, you must use the same brand and make of golf ball as you used to start your round. 

This means that if a Titleist is your first player, you will be able to play with them. Pro V1, you must play a Titleist Pro V1 for the remainder of the round and may not switch to another brand or even another model of Titleist golf ball.” 

It’s always a good idea to check the rules sheet Before the event to see if this rule applies. If so, make sure to take out extra golf balls that aren’t the same make/model from your bag. You might accidentally hit on a provisional and be penalized. 

How many golf balls does the average player lose?

An average golfer loses two balls each round. This can lead to high costs if you play 2-3 times per week. 

Click here to learn how to stop losing your golf balls.

How do I store my golf balls?

It’s best to carry between 9-12 golf balls in your bag at all times.

This is enough to ensure you can complete all 18 holes, even if you lose one. You also have an extra ball for a friend, who might not have read the article and may need it. 

How many golf balls do professional golfers have?

Pro golfers don’t carry nearly as many golf balls as amateurs do.

Pros carry 3-4 sleeves in their bag because they need to replace them throughout the round. It’s very common for them to go through 4-5 balls even if they don’t lose them.

If they are caught with anything, they will throw them at the crowd or sign them to give to fans. 

How long can a golf ball last?

If you don’t lose it, a golf ball can last about 6-7 rounds! But just make sure to replace it if it’s cracked or notice a decline in performance. 

What do you need to play 18 holes of golf? 

For 18 holes of playing golf, you will need golf balls, a bag, tees and a divot tool. These are the minimum necessary items to help you navigate your round. 

Most golfers have a lot more gear and accessories. You can have a rangefinder and a GPS device for golf, a club brush, Bluetooth speaker, towels and many other accessories. 

Is it a good idea to use the same ball for the round?

There’s not much more rewarding than playing the same golf ball for all 18 holes. When you don’t change balls it means you didn’t hit any in the water (or you fished it out with a Golf ball retriever) and overall played pretty solid. It’s definitely a bragging point to say, “I played the same golf ball the entire round.”

But if the ball is damaged and you’re still playing it, you should replace it once the hole is complete. A ball with a lot scuffs, nicks, or scratches can impact its performance and cause problems when you hit the green. Replace when needed, even if you don’t lose it sometimes. 

What happens to a golfer who runs out of golf ball? 

There are several options available if you run low on golf balls during a round. If it’s a casual round with friends you can simply ask them for a golf ball and move on with the round. 

However, if you are playing in a tournament, the rules may be different. You can ask a competitor to provide a golf ball but it must be the exact same make, model, color, and weight.

For example, if you’re playing a Titleist Pro V1XThey must give you the exact same ball. They can’t give you a yellow Pro V1Or an old model Pro V1 left dash golf ball. 

There is also the option to have someone buy your golf balls from the pro shop. However, this could lead to a long delay and you may be penalized.

In the Golf Digest article that discussed Tiger’s nearly catastrophic day at Pebble Beach they elaborate on this rule. “He also could have bought the balls from the golf shop, or sent someone to his hotel room to get more. Any of these choices would have resulted in a two-stroke penalty for an undue delay, likely leading to a double-digit number on the par-5 18th.”

Are you allowed to borrow golf balls from your playing partners

Yes, if you run out of your nine golf balls you should carry – you can borrow golf balls. The key to borrowing golf balls in a tournament is to make sure it’s the same model.

How many clubs can a golfer carry?

The USGA limit is 14 clubs – otherwise you will get penalized or disqualified based on the rules of the event. It also depends on if you’re playing in a stroke play tournament vs. match play tournament as well. 

Final Thoughts 

It is essential to have the right number of balls in order to avoid any issues on the golf course. While the stakes likely won’t reach Tiger’s levels on the golf course, it’s always better to have more than less. 

Nine golf balls is the ideal number for playing golf.

More balls is better than not enough. If youre not able to find the right ball, you can ask a rival for one. As long as it’s the same make/model, you won’t have to deal with any penalty issues. 

For short game practice, save your old golf balls. Plus, don’t forget to swap golf balls during the round if they get scuffed up from trees, cart paths, etc. A damaged golf ball can affect your ability to score, spin, distance, as well as your ability to score, so make sure you replace it when necessary. 

2 Responses

  1. Very informative! Your insights are highly valuable. For additional details, check out: LEARN MORE. What are everyone’s thoughts?

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