In golf, when players get on the green, they typically mark their ball, replacing it with a ball marker that clears the way for them to clean their ball and allow other players to putt around their ball without issue.
According to the USGA, a ball marker is defined as "an artificial object when 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."
Golfers use a variety of styles of ball markers. One of the most common ball markers is a coin, though there are players who use poker-style chips or other objects with different designs, sizes and styles.
However, the Rules of Golf are pretty liberal about what golfers can use as a ball marker on the greens, and that means players have a lot of options.
What can be used as a ball marker in golf?
In 2019, the Rules of Golf were updated to provide a definition of what a ball marker is and what can be used.
The new definition means that golfers cannot use naturally occurring items as ball markers. That means leaves, blades of grass, twigs and other like items cannot be used.
Golfers are able to use ball markers that contain alignment aids and helps them line up putts before lifting. Those types of ball markers, though, have specific regulations, though. These markers must be less than one inch in height, less than two inches in any horizontal direction and cannot measure or gauge slope, green speed or other conditions. If a ball marker with an alignment aid does not meet those conditions, it is considering an alignment device, whose use is subject to penalty.
However, the rule also means golfer don't necessarily have to use an object that remains affixed to the ground or in the ground for any period of time. A ball marker only needs to be on the ground as long as the ball it is replacing is lifted from its position. That means a putter head can be used to mark position, provided that a golfer is able to keep it still to indicate the spot to replace the ball.