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Should you mark and play with “practice balls”?

I recently came across an interesting discussion in a golf group. The question was something to the effect of, “Would you put your initials on practice balls that you found?”. I have an interesting perspective or answer to that. But first some definitions. For purposes of this article, we will define marking your ball, as putting your initials or any other symbol that identifies a ball as yours, on the ball.
Marking your ball is a common practice in golf because during the course of a round, it is very likely that you will come across other balls that are the exact same brand and color as the ball that you are playing with. Therefore, marking your ball prevents you from inadvertently picking up, or playing someone else’s ball.
Practice balls are typically balls used at the driving range, have the word “practice” stamped on them, and are usually low quality balls that have been hit hundreds if not thousands of times by patrons practicing on the range.
So back to our question, “Should you mark and play with “practice balls”? If you’re a beginner, my answer is absolutely yes!! While some may view marking & playing with “practice balls” as a negative, here are some positives to doing so:

1. Depending on the type you use, balls can be expensive, and as a beginner golfer, you’re going to lose a lot of them. Knowing this in advance will help you be detached from the ball. Meaning, if you lose it, no big deal, just grab another one out of your bag and keep playing.

2. Playing with practice balls as a new golfer, will help with the pace of play; as it will spare you from wasting precious time looking for lost balls.

3. There are many instances where practice balls from the golf range end up on the fairway. So if you were playing a round of golf with a practice ball you’d definitely want to mark it so you can identify, and differentiate it from a practice ball that may have been left randomly on the course by someone who was practicing on the range.

In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, I actually have a unique perspective on playing with “Practice balls”. I have a friend who works PGA tournaments, whether it be the Masters, whether it be the FedEx cup, or any of those large tournaments he travels with the PGA and works those tournaments. During those tournaments, the pros are given brand new Titleist Pro V1 balls stamped “Practice” to practice with. They hit those balls once or twice maximum, and then they’re replaced with a fresh set of brand new practice balls. Since my friend works in those tournaments, he often gets a chance to collect the minimally used balls and gift them to friends like me.
As a result, if I’m playing a round of golf with friends, I happily mark and play with those barely used Titleist Pro V 1s.
So if you are a newbie golfer and fortunate enough to be gifted with, or happen to find practice balls and you want to mark and use them during your rounds of golf; by all means, go ahead and do so.

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