How Many Balls Can a Golf Pro Carry? – Must-Know Basics

Golf is a fascinating sport that combines skill, strategy, and, sometimes, a bit of luck. One question that often pops up, especially among those new to the game, is about the gear that professional golfers carry.

Specifically, how many golf balls does a pro golfer carry during a tournament? Today, I will explore this topic.

Key Takeaways

  • Pro Golfer Gear: Professional golfers can carry as many golf balls as they wish, but most opt for around nine per round.
  • The One Ball Rule: This PGA Tour rule requires golfers to stick with one type of golf ball throughout a round.
  • Flexibility and Strategy: The number of golf balls carried can reflect a golfer’s strategy and the course’s challenges.
  • Preparation is Key: Running out of balls can lead to penalties, making it crucial for golfers to be well-prepared.

What’s in the Bag?

Professional golfers come prepared to tournaments with more than just their talent and clubs.

Among the essential items in their bag, quality golf balls hold a special place. But how many do they actually carry?

The Basics

At the core, pros typically have around five or six golf balls with them for competitive rounds. Yet, this number can vary based on the player’s strategy and the course’s difficulty.

For example, Russell Knox likes to have three sleeves, which means nine balls in total for a tournament round.

He prefers changing balls every other hole to ensure he’s always playing with one that’s in the best condition.

A Closer Look at Pro Preferences

Professional golfer ball limit

  • Gary Woodland often starts with 11 balls. He’s known for his generosity, giving some away to young fans or discarding them after a less-than-ideal performance, like a bogey.
  • Padraig Harrington recommends carrying no more than 12 balls, especially on courses where water hazards are prevalent.
  • Players like Kevin Kisner and Jason Gore prefer to leave the decision about the number of balls to carry to their caddies, trusting their judgment on what’s needed for the day.

The Rules of the Game

There’s no limit, according to the Rules of Golf, on how many balls a golfer can carry. However, running out of balls can lead to a two-stroke penalty, which no golfer wants.

Furthermore, if a replacement is needed during a round, it must be the same brand and model as the ones being used.

Memorable Moments

A notable incident involved Tiger Woods during the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

He was down to his last ball but managed to win the tournament, showcasing not just skill but also the importance of managing one’s golf ball inventory.

The One Ball Rule

Golf pro equipment regulations

In high-level competitions, such as those on the PGA Tour, there’s a specific regulation known as the One Ball Rule.

This rule states that a player must use balls from a single manufacturer and model throughout the round. This ensures fairness and consistency in play.

Running Out of Balls

What happens if a pro runs out of balls during a tournament? They have a few options:

  • Borrow balls from another player, ensuring they match the brand and model already in use.
  • Have someone fetch more, as long as it doesn’t delay the game.

Golf Ball Management

  • Most pros don’t use a new ball on every hole. They might switch every few holes or after a bogey.
  • Special versions of golf balls are often used by pros, which must be approved by the USGA for play.
  • While white balls are the standard, pros can use colored balls as long as they remain consistent throughout the round.

How Do Pros Decide How Many Balls to Carry?

Golf bag ball capacity

Deciding on the number of golf balls to carry in a tournament is more art than science. It involves considering several factors, including the golfer’s confidence, the course layout, and the weather conditions.

Golfers and their caddies weigh these elements carefully to ensure they’re adequately equipped for the round ahead.

Factors Influencing Ball Count

  • Course Difficulty: Courses with more hazards, like water or thick rough, might prompt a golfer to pack a few extra balls.
  • Weather Conditions: Windy or rainy conditions can increase the likelihood of lost balls, influencing the number to carry.
  • Golfer’s Strategy: Some golfers might change balls frequently to maintain optimal performance, requiring a larger supply.
  • Psychological Comfort: Simply knowing there are enough balls in the bag can provide a mental edge, reducing stress on challenging courses.

The Impact of the One Ball Rule on Strategy

PGA tour golfer ball count

The One Ball Rule adds an interesting strategic element to professional golf. Since golfers must use the same type of ball throughout a round, selecting the right ball becomes a critical decision.

This rule emphasizes the importance of consistency and preparation, ensuring that golfers and their teams carefully consider their ball choice based on the course’s characteristics and expected conditions.

Navigating the Rule

  • Selection Process: Golfers might test different balls during practice rounds to decide which model performs best under tournament conditions.
  • Consistency Over Rounds: Ensuring that every ball in the bag is the same model avoids potential penalties and maintains consistency in play.

Key Lessons for Aspiring Golfers

PGA tour ball limit

Amateur and recreational golfers can learn a lot from the pros’ approach to managing their golf balls.

While the exact strategies might differ based on skill level and competitive aspirations, the principles of preparation, selection, and adaptability are universally applicable.

Tips for Amateurs

  • Know Your Game: Choose a golf ball type that matches your playing style and strengths.
  • Prepare for the Course: Consider the course layout and conditions when deciding how many balls to bring.
  • Learn from Each Round: Pay attention to how different balls perform in various conditions to refine your choices over time.


Can a pro golfer change their golf ball type during a tournament?

No, under the One Ball Rule, a golfer must use the same type of ball throughout the tournament.

What happens if a golfer’s ball is damaged during play?

A golfer can replace a damaged ball, provided the replacement is the same brand and model.

Are there any penalties for losing a golf ball during a round?

Yes, if a ball is lost or goes out of bounds, the golfer incurs a penalty under the Rules of Golf.

Can professional golfers use any color golf ball they want?

Yes, professionals can use colored golf balls as long as they maintain the same color throughout the round.

Is there a limit to how many golf balls a pro can have in their bag at the start of a round?

No, there’s no limit to the number of balls a pro can carry, but they typically carry around nine.

Do professional golfers pay for their golf balls?

Most professional golfers receive their golf balls as part of sponsorship deals with manufacturers and do not pay for them directly.

Final Words

Golf is a game of precision, strategy, and preparation. From selecting the right equipment to managing resources like golf balls during a round, every detail can impact performance.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an amateur enthusiast, understanding these nuances can enhance your appreciation of the game and potentially improve your play.