Is It Legal To Warm Golf Balls? What You Need to Know

We get it – finding your edge in a golf competition can be tough for even the most experienced of players. Many of us just want to find ways to push our performance to the limit. With this in mind, is it legal to warm golf balls? How kosher are those hand warmers you’re reaching for? 

On this page, we’ll be diving into the topic of warming your golf balls for competitive play. We’ll explore what the practice is, why people do it, and whether it’s allowed in serious games. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete novice, you won’t want to miss this one. 

What is Golf Ball Heating? 

As the name suggests, golf ball heating is the practice of increasing the temperature of a golf ball before hitting it in the game. This is usually done at the tee box before a round has started. There are numerous ways to heat up a golf ball and a few reasons to consider doing so. 

Why do People Heat Their Golf Balls?

It’s not just a peculiar hobby; warming your golf balls before play can have more impact than you might expect. In this section, we’ll run through the main reasons that most people warm their golf balls, regardless of whether it’s illegal. 

Distance 

When first striking the ball from the tee box, your goal should be to get the ball to fly as far as physically possible. Accuracy and precision matter too, of course, but distance is one of the most important factors to consider when trying to gain an edge as a golfer. 

Heating the ball before you strike it helps it to respond better to the force of your swing. This, in turn, results in a longer flight path than would otherwise be possible. The next time you’re playing casually without strict rules, heat the ball and see if it makes a difference for you.

‘Cutting’ Through Colder Air 

In atmospheres that are thick with a denser layer of cold air, the ball can be slowed down significantly as it travels across the course. Heating the golf ball prior to striking it can help it to ‘cut’ through the air more readily. 

The heat displaces the cold air before the ball itself comes into contact with it, helping to maintain velocity and travel further distances. 

Better Rubber Responsiveness

Most regular golf balls are made from a type of rubber. Rubber is particularly responsive to heat. In theory, this means that any positive performance that would usually occur when striking a golf ball is only improved by heating it. 

This applies to spin behavior, distance, loft, and several other factors. In short, heating a golf ball makes it much more likely that it will perform the way you want it to. Even for beginners, it can lend a small boost to what they’re able to achieve.

How to Heat a Golf Ball

The first thing to mention here is that if you’re playing in a professional or more serious game, you shouldn’t be heating your golf balls at all. The USGA is very clear about the legality of such behavior. In short, it isn’t. 

If you’re playing more casually and just want to have a bit of fun, however, this section outlines a few ways to get your golf balls toasty. 

Pot of Warm Water

This option won’t always be practical, but it can work well if you’ve got an electric kettle with you or you’re near a private property. Fill a heat-proof container with a liter or two of warm (not super hot) water and add a clean towel. 

Next, add your golf balls on top and let them sit there for a few minutes. As long as you hit your golf balls soon after removing them from the water, you should be good to go. 

Hand Warmers 

Some people prefer to use hand warmers to heat their golf balls before a game. During the winter months, many golf courses even offer them at the front desk! There’s no special technique involved with heating a golf ball with hand warmers. 

Simply activate your hand warmer of choice and hold it in your hands while cupping one or two golf balls at the same time. After a handful of minutes, they should be ready to deliver the performance you’re looking for. 

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Is It Legal to Warm Golf Balls? USGA Rules

In casual games with friends, things like this shouldn’t matter too much. Even in this context, though, remember that: 

  • It’s still considered cheating by most people 
  • Your golf club may ban it in principle 

What about in professional or more serious competitions? In this section, we’ll find out. 

Rule 4.2 – Balls 

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately for the cheaters out there). The United States Golf Association is unambiguous about heating a ball before playing with it. Check out this direct quote from the online version of their rules:

“Deliberately Altered Ball Must Not Be Played. A player must not make a stroke at a ball whose performance characteristics have been deliberately altered, such as by scuffing or heating the ball or by applying any substance (other than in cleaning it).”

– Source: USGA site.

To answer your question, yes; it is illegal to warm golf balls. As far as the USGA is concerned at the very least. 

Why is it Illegal to Warm Golf Balls for Professional Games?

Because professional golf should be about the skill of the people playing it, not the temperature of the golf balls they’re using! The idea behind the USGA’s rules is to keep things as fair as possible. 

The only factor that should influence a game one way or another is a particular player’s skill level.

Is it Legal to Warm Golf Balls? Conclusion

If you’re playing casually, warming up your golf balls might be fine but other players might not be happy about it. In games that follow the USGA’s rules and standards, heating your golf balls before hitting them is unequivocally illegal

Barry