LINE vs. NO-LINE

Regardless of your level of play, if you haven't done it yourself, you've surely played with someone who takes a ridiculous amount of time trying to precisely line up a putt. If we're talking about one of those draws a line on the ball types, the wait time can become excruciating.

Meticulous line-based alignment of putter, ball, and hole isn't just annoying to the other members of your foursome, it also contributes to pace of play issues. If using a line leads to a higher percentage putts made, then the extra time spent is arguably justified. If it doesn't, well...then the rest of us are within our rights to be outraged.

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Professional golfers across all major tours draw lines on their golf balls. Whatever it is...if the pros do it, you can be sure amateurs will mirror the behavior. Credit or blame, we can pin it on the likes of Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, or Jason Day. They all mark their golf ball with a line, but no one has ever done a test to find out if that line actually improves your putting?

Does using an alignment line on the ball at all increase the likelihood of holing putts?

We decided to find out. If using a line suggests it will help lower your scores, we're all for it, but if the results suggest it doesn't, then maybe, as a courtesy to everyone else on the golf course, you should put the sharpie away.

HOW WE TESTED

  • 10 testers participated in this test
  • Testers putted 20 holes at each of 3 Distances (5, 10, and 20 feet)
  • At each distance 10 holes each were putted with lines and without lines on the ball
  • 600 total holes putted
  • All testers putted with a PING Cadence TR Ketch putter
  • All tester putted with Bridgestone B330 golf balls

THE DATA

The chart below shows the breakdown of the total number of putts necessary to complete the 100 holes played at each distance (300 holes total per putter). Total counts, as well as per hole averages are also displayed. The SG18 number represents the number of strokes gained or lost over 18 holes as a result of marking or not marking the golf ball.

line-v-no-line-chart

OBSERVATIONS

  • From 5 feet the testers putting balls marked with a line finished the test in two fewer putts.
  • From 10 and 20 feet, the unmarked balls required fewer putts to complete the holes.
  • Holes putted using unmarked balls took fewer total putts to complete.
  • Under our SG18 methodology, marking the ball with a line contributes to 1 lost stroke per every 6 rounds of golf played.
  • Testers mentioned that from 10 and 20 feet, their focus on the line impacted the pace of the putt. There was a noticeable trend that from greater distances, distance control was worse when balls were marked with a line.

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THE VERDICT

So, as a player what can you take from this data to help your game?

Basically, using the line, especially from distances of 10 feet or more, likely does little more than annoy your playing partners.

Our test revealed that marking the golf ball with a line (as 70% of our test participants reported doing) provides no statistical advantage whatsoever over putting with an unmarked ball.

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