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How To Properly Repair Ball Marks

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Let's talk about repairing ball marks on the putting green, and doing so properly.

I see a lot of people do this improperly. Unfortunately, many of them are PGA Tour players, and they do it on television. They put their divot repair tool in the ground, pop up, and tap down. This is the wrong way to repair a ball mark. It damages or rips the roots and the grass does not heal in a short time, taking weeks to recover.

We had an old topic on this, but it's old, and the videos and links in it are probably almost all outdated. So I wanted to revisit the topic anew.

First, a video, an old one but a good one, from Lake View Country Club.

Next, an image from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).

ball_mark_repair.jpg

Third, a PDF I built based on the old Lake View site: https://thesandtrap.com/media/misc/repairing_ball_marks.pdf.

In short… Push, Don't Pop.

Finally, a photo of a recent repair I made to an improperly repaired ball mark:

ballmarkrepair.jpg

I did this by:

  • Coring out the dirt part. Just inserted the tool and twisted.
  • Progressively working the edges of the nearby turf around the edges toward the center of the hole.
  • Tamping it down.

I took the photo before I tapped it down with a putter (which smoothed it out nicely), and which not only looks better, but which will heal much more quickly.

The left photo, the "badly repaired" ball mark, may putt quite well, but the person who repaired that ball mark didn't do his job correctly. He popped. He didn't push.

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You see players lift the ball mark above the surface of the green, then tamp it down all the time. They are not trying to fix the mark so that it heals, they are just trying to level the green. At least until that spot dies off. If they had just left it alone you would have only had a dime sized spot, by the time they are done mangling the green its a half dollar. Its one of my pet peeves, and the pros are part of the problem. They care more about the surface for the upcoming putt than what it looks like next week. 

Edited by Papa Steve 55

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5 minutes ago, Papa Steve 55 said:

You see players lift the ball mark above the surface of the green, then tamp it down all the time. They are not trying to fix the mark so that it heals, they are just trying to level the green. At least until that spot dies off. If they had just left it alone you would have only had a dime sized spot, by the time they are done mangling the green its a half dollar. Its one of my pet peeves, and the pros are part of the problem. They care more about the surface for the upcoming putt than what it looks like next week. 

I agree.

The thing is, done properly, you can have not only a smooth surface now, but a healthy one, too.

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Ive found condition of the green determines how well your repairs go too. Greens with nice tight turf are really easy to repair properly. You can just push the back over and it was like it was never there. Greens that have loose turf that spreads and tears easily always end up with those dirt spots when i try to repair. Wet greens, too. 

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What do they call a golfer that repairs ball marks at Kittyhawk? ...

 

.... A visitor.

 

Edited by mcanadiens

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I rarely see people do this the correct way. I remember that old thread about this, its how I first learned to do it correctly.

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Yeah, I tend to fold over the big flap that my longer approach balls leave back over the hole in hopes that it would "heal" somehow. I don't play daily any more so I have no idea of that works or not or if it's a fruitless attempt to save that flap of grass. I should assume not and gently shove more grass from the surrounding area. . .

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4 minutes ago, Lihu said:

Yeah, I tend to fold over the big flap that my longer approach balls leave back over the hole in hopes that it would "heal" somehow. I don't play daily any more so I have no idea of that works or not or if it's a fruitless attempt to save that flap of grass. I should assume not and gently shove more grass from the surrounding area. . .

Yeah… Do not do that.

Throw that piece away.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

Finally, a photo of a recent repair I made to an improperly repaired ball mark:

ballmarkrepair.jpg

I did this by:

  • Coring out the dirt part. Just inserted the tool and twisted.
  • Progressively working the edges of the nearby turf around the edges toward the center of the hole.
  • Tamping it down.

I took the photo before I tapped it down with a putter (which smoothed it out nicely), and which not only looks better, but which will heal much more quickly.

The left photo, the "badly repaired" ball mark, may putt quite well, but the person who repaired that ball mark didn't do his job correctly. He popped. He didn't push.

It never occurred to me that I can fix an improperly repaired mark. Learn something new every day.

22 minutes ago, mcanadiens said:

What do they call a golfer that repairs ball marks at Kittyhawk? ...

 

.... A visitor.

 

That's kind of sad. I think somewhere a fairy just lost its wings.

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It's such a problem at some courses around here that I'm jsut grateful to those that make the attempt.  Doing it in the effective manner is a bonus.

We have a local course where the club decided to make a point to their members and on the first green they planted a little flag by every ball mark (and a sign explaining that people have not been repairing marks.

It looked like the freakin' United Nations on that green.

The result?  member just removed the flags that were in the way of their putts.  No one really repaired any marks........sigh

(it's a very nice layout and would be a fantastic course.  Other than this issue, the rest of the course is pristine.)

I saw similar issues with an Arnold Palmer signature course in Iowa.  The members clearly had no clue just what a gem they had in that course - at least in terms of how they took care of their own greens.  The staff there was amazing, but they can do only so much.

Given time and pace of play, I'll usually repair/rerepair quite a few marks on greens if I can.  (it's not that I care, I'm just OCD)

Edited by rehmwa

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I was just explaining this to Jacob last weekend. Very timely post! You can tell by looking at our greens that the majority of players do not know how to do this properly. I try and fix as many as I can while standing around waiting.

Edited by TN94z

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

did this by:

  • Coring out the dirt part.

makes better sense - this is a good idea on re-repairs of that type.  Normally I just try to squeeze the grass in around the sides (skip to steps 2 and 3) and this area gets broken up but not removed.  but that center dirt core is just in the way.  I like just removing it or even pre-loosening it up so it's easier to get the side turf into the area.

I'll add this when trying to improve poorly repaired marks.

I should have thought of it on my own...

Edited by rehmwa

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I learned the proper way to repair a ball mark from the original thread here on TST (and the subsequent lake View Country Club video). Since then I've repaired mine that way (~2+ years ago), but I don't think I've EVER seen a single play repair a ball mark properly. And I have no idea how to bring it up even with people I play with often without sounding like a pompous ass. 

So it surprises me when I see people on here saying they repair them correctly. Everyone I've seen does the pop up and tamp down. 

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I almost feel like this should be a pinned topic. I see so many players, including really good ones, just mangle greens when repairing ball marks. I played with someone a couple of weeks ago who was impressed that I was not popping up the ball mark when repairing it. That is ball mark repair 101. It depresses me that he was actually impressed by someone doing it correctly, but here we are.

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11 minutes ago, jkelley9 said:

So it surprises me when I see people on here saying they repair them correctly. Everyone I've seen does the pop up and tamp down. 

TST has a higher concentration of conscientious golfers than the general population, so it doesn't surprise me at all that a lot of people here know how to repair ball marks properly. It's this extra interest in the game that brings us all together to discuss it in the first place IMO.

Plus, you said this yourself:

16 minutes ago, jkelley9 said:

I learned the proper way to repair a ball mark from the original thread here on TST (and the subsequent lake View Country Club video).

Where do you think I learned how to properly repair a ball mark? ;-)

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One of the many things I learned on the Sandtrap… 

This can be somewhat tough to do on sandy courses/sandy greens… It tends to tear more than anything.

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Pinned and, later tonight, featured on the home page.

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I totally agree about the need to make this issue more visible.

Invariably, I play with people that have been playing for decades, sometimes 3 or 4 decades and still don't know how to fix ball marks. Pretty much any time I see somebody doing it wrong (not on the first few greens though if I don't know them), I tell them and show them, right then and there (even if that means redoing an improperly fixed one). They usually thank me and start doing it right almost immediately (it takes a little practice to really get it right).

But, I put the blame on the courses who do a piss poor job of informing the players, and on the pros, who only care about making the next putt flat for themselves, not realizing how bad an example they are setting for everyone else.

1 hour ago, jkelley9 said:

Since then I've repaired mine that way (~2+ years ago), but I don't think I've EVER seen a single play repair a ball mark properly. And I have no idea how to bring it up even with people I play with often without sounding like a pompous ass. 

I see some people doing it right, but there a lot of folks who don't for sure, and they all claim they watch the pros.

As for bringing it up, I just tell them: "please don't lift up, it just kills the roots and it takes weeks for the green to recover instead of a few minutes/hours". They get it that it's not about them, because it is in the interest of everyone to have smooth greens. Then we talk about the pros and what they are really doing when prepping their line of putt vs. what they are doing when repairing their own ball marks (not the same thing, it turns out!). 

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