Will Lines On Your Golf Ball Improve Your Putting? – Golf Myths Unplugged

Time and Effort Well Spent?

There’s usually one player in every foursome with a line on their golf ball that needs to be aimed perfectly before they can hit a putt.  Maybe it’s you.  The question we set out to explore is, “Does that line make a difference?”

The Myths

Myth #1 – Alignment aids on the ball improve golfers’ aim

Myth #2 – Alignment aids on the ball lead to more made putts

How We Tested

For this test, we gathered five golfers with handicaps ranging from zero to fifteen.  Each player chose a putter that fit their stroke and was connected to SAM PuttLab.  They hit seven eight-foot putts in each of three conditions: no line on the ball, a single black line on the ball, and using Callaway’s Triple Track marking on the ball.  In the latter two conditions, the players were able to spend as much time as they wanted lining up the ball before striking the putt.

All testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.

The Results

Thanks to SAM Puttlab, we were able to measure each golfer’s aim to one tenth of a degree.  We found that three of our five testers aimed the best with either a line or Triple Track – two were best with a line, one with Triple Track.

It is worth noting that the differences were extremely small.  Player 1, for instance, aimed 0.3 degrees closed with no alignment aid, 0.1 degrees closed with Triple Track.  That same player aimed the worst with a line, 0.9 degrees closed.

Because 40% of our testers aimed better without a line, and because the differences were extremely small, we’re rating this myth as “Plausible” rather than “Confirmed.”

In our test, the most putts were made without any alignment aids on the golf ball.  35 putts were struck under each condition.  With no alignment aid, our testers made 28, with a line they made 25, and with Triple Track they made 26.

While we did label this myth “Busted” – alignment aids led to fewer putts being made, not more – there is some context to consider.  Of our five testers, three made the same amount of putts under each testing condition.  One tester made fewer putts with both a line and Triple Track, and the final tester made one putt less with a line but was equal with no aid and Triple Track.

Additional Findings

Our test group was a mix of players who do and do not use a line on their ball during regular play.  Most of our testers stated that, on the eight foot putt, they were comfortable with or without the line.  One tester had a strong preference for no line, and that same tester was the one who performed worse with alignment aids.

Opportunities for Future Testing

We have just scratched the surface of how alignment marks on golf balls can affect putting.  Most obviously, we would like to test this again with longer putts.  Beyond that, we would like to test this with breaking putts.  I’m most curious to see if, on a putt with substantial break, golfers feel reassured by the line or if they find that they can’t trust it.

Another avenue which we will certainly explore is how marks on the ball correlate with the alignment aids on a putter.  Does Triple Track ball alignment work better with a Triple Track putter?  Are players who like a sight line more apt to want a line on their ball?

If you have questions in this vein, please share them in the comments section and we’ll put the best ones to the test.

Conclusion

Our primary takeaway from this test is that, at least on straight, short range putts, alignment aids don’t make a huge difference.  Additionally, we would advise golfers to trust their own instincts.  If you feel that you can’t trust a line, don’t use one.  If lining up Triple Track gives you a boost of confidence, use it.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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22 Comments

  1. Another great study, Matt. I game a single black sharpie line on all my putts but do it for a reason that maybe isn’t as obvious. While it may help with alignment and I’ve gotten used to using it, one of the big benefits for me is that it helps me know if I’ve struck my putts on my intended line. If I hit a putt and it rolls perfectly end-over-end on the line, I know I’ve hit my line. If it wobbles back and forth or looks even worse, I know I’ve hit a less-than-decent putt. My results tend to be irrelevant of the line, but I like having it there for that reason.

  2. Seriously? Alignment aids never improve accuracy. Right.

    If you’re a player who doesn’t use a line, and doesn’t have a pre-shot routine to align using a line, then of course a line isn’t going to improve your accuracy.

    Maybe a second control group, using players who always use some king of line, should be made to putt without one.

  3. David Aldrich

    I am interested in the roll of the ball when struct. Does the line wobble suggesting you have cut across the ball causing unneeded spin
    A line that stays steady suggested the ball was struct square to the alignment of the line
    Is the line placed relative to the center of gravity of the ball. These lines are done with a spinner to locate the center of gravity

  4. Stuart Anderson

    A pure putter does not need alignment aide on the bill to make a putt.just think, you got the line in the center of the putter, the face line of the putter and now a line on the ball, for a 10 foot putt. To many things to make you miss that putt. Let’s worse with a 10 foot braker. Just saying.

  5. My read on the break of the putt sometimes changes when I step in over the putt. I find a line keeps me from changing my mind or doubting my initial read.

  6. Alignment equals slow play

  7. Neil Robertson

    Aligning with a line should be against the rules. Itd definatly adds to slow play.
    Also, why do golfers need practice swings?
    Tennis players, quarterbacks, pitchers, bowlers etc do not get practice “swings”.
    Just slows play also. Players should try playing with no practice swings or minimal swings. They might try it and find they play better.

    • I’ve always agreed with your opinion. Alignment aids definitely should be illegal. I never talk about it though, for when I do I get bombarded with butthurt…

    • Think of all the time you would save if you didn’t play golf and comment about lines on golf balls. You could have more time to snark for better things.

    • Barry Schwartz

      Practice swings can be helpful when you have less than a flat, perfect lie to see exactly how the club will interact with the turf. I never take a practice putt however, I just don’t see the benefit. I don’t take them on the putting green, so I don’t take them on the course.

      I’ve always wondered why baseball pitchers need to take warm-up throws every inning (especially when there is so much focus on pitch counts these days).

  8. I tried a line on a ball for several years before balls had lines.

    I did not trust it; always seems a little “off” over the ball. From readiing, I also know that the eyes and brain can “trick” you. What you think you see is not what you see.

    I line up better when I have a putter fitted for aim. For me, no offset with a mallet and without lines or a small line gets me the best results, and no line on the ball. Triple track bothered the heck out of me.

  9. I don’t know the history of alignment aids on the ball, but wasn’t it Brad Faxon who first had success with the technique? If he had not been recognized as a great putter, would alignment aids on the ball ever have become popular? Also, was he a great putter before he began using ball alignment aids? To Jim A’s point above alignment aids on clubs, especially putters, seem to help, but on the ball I’m not so sure. At least this is true in my experience.

  10. Mike Henderson

    What you have not mentioned is the dominant eye. I have a left dominant eye but am right handed. Before using three lines, which I came up with because 1 or 2 didn’t help, I felt I was aimed where I wanted to hit the ball but people would get behind me and tell me i was aimed “way right”. Now I line up the three lines in the direction I want to hit it and people tell me I am right on line.

  11. I used to put a line on m ball before it became popular, but I had mixed results. I was regularly playing at a local muni where the greens were just okay and I felt like I couldn’t get the ball lined up where I wanted. After a while I just didn’t trust the line was where I wanted it and didn’t want to waste all that time trying to get it lined up.

    I like picking a spot to roll the ball over and I find it easier to picture a a white line about the width of the ball on a track to the hole. Being less precise has worked better for me and freed me up a bit.

  12. If I’m not lining up the lines correctly, that creates doubt, which puts me back to square one, possibly worse. So I long ago dropped the line idea.

    What is helpful (for me) is to use a small dot on the ball to stare at as I make my stroke. That helps me focus and make an aggressive stroke.

  13. So I used to line my ball with the Check Go Pro – trouble was sometimes the line wasn’t exactly on the center of the ball so it was more of a nuisance than helpful. Now I just use the name of the type of ball I’m hitting to line up my drives and putts – I like it and it doesn’t take any more time than players who stand over their driver or putt trying to find the correct line.

  14. I look at the hole when I putt so any alignment aides are useless for me whether they are on the ball or the putter. I agree that having the line does slow things down as do pre-shot routines. I take about 3 seconds to “read” a putt and then step up and hit it. It drives me crazy when guys spend 2-3 minutes reading a putt then walk around the green to view it from every angle then spend another 30 seconds placing their alignment mark just right and then go through their pre-shot routine and leave it 4 feet short on an 8 foot putt. They usually then spend another 20 seconds whining about how the greens suck.

  15. Did Bobby Locke, Billy Casper, Bobby Jones etc… use an alignment line?

  16. Tom Duckworth

    I can see the value of having a line go around the ball it’s definitely a good way to tell how well your striking it. Something good for the practice green. I visualize my line pick out two or three marks on the green and try to roll the ball over them if I hit them I usually make the putt. I have an Anser style putter with three lines and that is what I line up to my intended path the ball is just on the path. Controlling speed is the most important part to me.

  17. I’ve tried various ball alignment aids, most recently Triple Track and Trident Align. While I don’t doubt that these systems can help certain golfers putt better, they don’t work for me and slow down play considerably. Alignment aids assume that the golfer knows the correct line, whereas most golfers under read break. Aiming at a spot 1 – 3 feet in front of the ball works best for me. Sometimes an imperfect read and imperfect stroke will result in a made putt – that’s the nature of putting.

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