What Is A Mud Ball In Golf?
A “mud ball” is where your golf ball has picked up some mud, dirt or sand on landing and it has remained stuck to the ball’s cover.
Any debris sticking to the ball is likely to affect how the ball flies on your next shot. Dimple patterns on the cover of the ball are designed with great care to give it the right aerodynamics to fly further and straighter so anything that could interfere with that is not going to help your golf score!
The part of the world where you play golf is likely to have a big effect on the number of mud balls that you face.
Can I Clean Mud Off My Golf Ball?
It all depends, doesn’t it? Are you just having a friendly game with your buddies? If so then I doubt they will mind if you clean the ball before you play it. If you are playing a round that counts towards your handicap or in a competition then I’m afraid you can’t just clean your ball whenever you’d like.
Here is when you can clean your ball:
Before Starting The Hole
There’s a reason that the tee box often has a ball washer! You can give your ball a clean before starting the hole.
Once You Reach The Green
Once you manage to get your ball on the green you can clean it. To do so you should first mark the position of the ball. The best way is to use a coin or something similar just behind the ball in a straight line to the cup. Once marked you can lift it and clean it off. Make sure to replace the ball in the correct spot before playing on to avoid penalty strokes.
When You Are Taking Free Relief Or A Penalty Drop
Anytime you get to take relief from an obstruction or if you need to drop under penalty you are entitled to clean your ball.
If The Club (Or Tournament Organizer) Has Instituted Preferred Lies
Sometimes jokingly called lift, clean and cheat this local rule is invoked when it is felt that the conditions are so bad that the rule is needed to allow fair play and protect the playing surfaces.
I’ve always been a bit dubious on the protecting the course part of that because in reality what happens is people move the ball to a better bit of turf which then has a divot taken out and voila the course hasn’t been protected! In fact, my own club has just brought it in to “protect the fairways”. In reality, the fairways have been terrible through the summer and won’t really be any worse during winter since it is a free draining links.
Golf was never meant to be fair!
The PGA Tour often instigate its own lift, clean and place rules as the parts of the USA where they are playing seem to be prone to thunderstorms and deluges of rain that are impossible for most courses to handle.
When Taking Relief For An Embedded Ball
If your ball is embedded in its own pitch mark in a closely mown area then you are entitled to lift, clean and drop without penalty.
When Trying To Identify Your Ball
If there is some doubt as to whether the ball is yours you are entitled to mark and pick up the ball to check and while doing you are allowed to clean the ball but only enough to allow identification.
How Does Mud Affect Golf Balls?
It’s never a great feeling when a golfer gets to their ball after smacking it down the center of the fairway to find a large chunk of mud stuck to one side of it. Mud on a ball can have a major impact on its spin, trajectory, distance and curvature. The problem is that no one can definitely predict what that impact might be.
However, here is some advice on what could happen if you encounter a mud ball.
Mud On The Left Side
Mud on the left side of the ball most often causes the ball to move firmly to the right in the air.
Mud On The Right Side
Mud on the right of the ball generally causes the ball to move to the left when hi by the player.
Mud On The Top Of The Ball
Mud on the top, front or back of the ball does not clearly alter direction but it does reduce the ball’s carry distance.
What Is A Mud Ball In Golf: Conclusion
So not a ball made of mud then! No, it just means a ball with some debris stuck to it that is likely to fly offline because of it.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
How much does mud affect a golf ball?
Unfortunately playing a mud ball is not an exact science. The general rule is the ball will fly in the opposite direction to the side with the dirt on it.
Can I clean a mud ball?
It depends on the situation.
Normally you have to play the ball as it lies.
You can clean your ball on the green or between holes. You may also do so if the ball is embedded or preferred lies are in operation.
If you are able then try to keep your ball clean to give you the best chance of controlling your ball flight.