What Is A Mud Ball In Golf?

Golf Ball laying in mud with golfer about to hit it

Meet Jake

Jake was a competitive golfer for over a decade dating back to the days of being the Captain of his high school golf team. He has played more than 200 courses across 32 different states in the US. Now semi-retired, Jake continues to golf 3-4 days a week with a current 2 handicap, gives golf lessons to his friends and family, and provides a wealth of knowledge to Golf Circuit from his competitive playing days. Jake combines practical expertise with technical knowledge to create golfing strategies and training techniques for both beginners and scratch golfers.

If you have been playing golf for some time or noticed an announcer on tv mention it, you may be wondering, “What is a mud ball in golf?”

A mud ball is a golf term that describes a golf ball covered in mud. A ball that is covered in mud could be adversely affected as it flies through the air. 

Since we know that dimples on the ball create the trajectory and flight that make a nice golf shot, generally, having your golf ball covered in mud isn’t ideal.

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There have been moments at big golf tournaments where the mud was a major topic of discussion. Like that time having mud on Scottie Schefler’s golf ball caused him to be unable to come back for the win.

A mud ball can cause unflattering golf shots that inhibit professional golfers from hitting their best shots. Most golf tournaments play in sunny or tropical areas, so mud isn’t usually a problem. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible.  

Watch these professional golfers getting upset at mud balls.

In this article, we will also describe the circumstance in which the USGA allows you to lift, clean, and place your golf ball back on the course.

How Bad Does A Mud Ball Affect Its Flight?

In golf, a mud ball can cause a ball to hook or slice in the opposite direction where the mud is caked on the golf ball. This is mainly because the weight of the mud changes how the ball spins through the air. 

We all know that dimples on a golf ball are what create a pleasant spin through the air. Even if you didn’t know, now you do! A mud ball keeps these dimples from doing their job. 

If you hit a golf ball caked with mud on the left side, do you think it would hook to the left, slice to the right, or fly straight?

Read our article on hook vs. slice if you don’t know the difference.

When I thought about this, I decided the mud ball would fly to the left. More weight on that side, right? Well, in a study by Keiser University, they tested this. To the tune of 400 shots with mud balls by golfers who had single-digit handicaps. The results? Nearly every time, the ball sliced to the right. 

They decided that this was because the airflow on the ball was substantially reduced on the left side, changing the trajectory of the mud ball to the right. 

Can you Clean a Golf Ball Covered In Mud?

mud ball in golf
Golf ball covered in mud.

Let’s say that your golf ball hit a muddy spot on the fairway before rolling onto the green. Now your ball is covered in mud and sticks and perfectly lying on the green, ready for you to putt. Can you clean a golf ball covered in mud? 

You may lift a golf ball and clean it only if marked and on the putting green. The golfer must then replace the same golf ball in the spot it was lifted from. 

Otherwise, there are only certain conditions that allow a golf ball to be lifted and cleaned. USGA rules require that a golfer must mark the golf ball before lifting it off the course. The golfer may place the marker behind the golf ball or to the side. You must replace the golf ball in the same spot that it was lifted. 

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Remember, only you, the golfer, may lift the golf ball. Nobody else, not even your caddy, is allowed to touch the ball. 

Can you lift, clean, and place a golf ball on the fairway? 

You may lift a golf ball off the fairway and clean it, but only to see if the golf ball is cracked or verify that it is your ball. Otherwise, cleaning your mud ball is not allowed if it is on the fairway.

Some other circumstances may require you to lift your golf ball. Such as if it interferes with play. Another circumstance is to see if your ball is in a position where relief is allowed. In these circumstances, however, you may not clean the golf ball once you pick it up.

Tips On How To Hit a Mud Ball

Knowing what a mud ball is makes me want to avoid mud at all costs when playing golf. However, there are ways to make a mud ball work in your favor. 

Use a higher club

While the weight of the mud won’t drag your ball to the side where the mud is, it can make the golf ball much heavier than normal. Because of this, you will want to use a higher club than you would with a clean golf ball. 

So, for instance, if you have a shot where you would normally use a six-iron, club up to a five if your golf ball is covered in mud.

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Don’t hit the ball too hard

Since spin speed is a major factor in how much the mud ball spins, you will want to hold back the power on your shot. Therefore, by producing less power, you keep the ball from spinning more than it normally would.

Choke up on the club

Choking up on the club is one way to hit a low golf shot. With the ball in the air for a smaller amount of time, there is less of a chance you have an undesirable golf shot. By choking up on the golf club a small amount, this is one way you can prevent the mudball from producing that curve that all golfers hate.

I know it may be unlikely that all these come together at once, but let’s say you want to curve the ball to the right, and there is mud on the left side. Because we know a mud ball will curve the opposite way, you can use that to your advantage. 

You never really know what will happen in golf, and making the most of every scenario is one sure way to become a better golfer. 

By choking up on the club, swinging with less power, and clubbing up if the mud is heavy enough, you can make the most of having a mud ball in golf!

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