Are X-Out Golf Balls Allowed Under the Rules?

Golfers who want to save a few bucks sometimes buy a type of golf ball known as an X-out. These are balls deemed by the manufacturer to have some kind of small defect. But are X-outs considered in the Rules of Golf? Are they "legal" for tournament play? Sometimes, yes! But in high-level competitions, almost certainly not.

Sometimes a golf ball is flagged in the factory as not up to standards. Balls that are deemed to have a physical defect such that they are clearly non-conforming, or one that will noticeably alter the way the ball plays, are destroyed at the factory. But some balls might just have a cosmetic defect, or some other issue that is small enough most golfers won't even notice. Some ball companies will take that second type of ball, stamp a row of X's across the brand name, and sell them at a steep discount. These are "X-out golf balls." (Today, some ball makers skip the X's and instead stamp the word "X-Out" on the side of the ball.)

And X-outs are considered by the Rules of Golf. A clarification to Rule 4.2a directly addresses the status of X-outs. So first, what does Rule 4.2a say? The title of Rule 4.2a is "Balls Allowed in Play of Round." This is the pertinent part:

"(1) Conforming Ball Must Be Played. In making each stroke, a player must use a ball that conforms to the requirements in the Equipment Rules."
Do X-out balls conform? That's where Clarification 4.2a(1)/2 is directly on-point:
"In the absence of strong evidence to suggest that an 'X-Out' ... does not conform to the Equipment Rules, a player is allowed to use it. However, if the Committee has adopted the List of Conforming Golf Balls as a Local Rule, such a ball must not be used even if the identification markings on the ball in question appear on the List."
You can always use X-outs in your practice rounds or any other round in which you are not strictly observing the rules. You can use X-outs in handicap rounds. You can even use X-out balls in tournament play unless the tournament committee has put in place the Local Rule that requires the use of golf balls that explicitly appear on the List of Conforming Golf Balls. In that case, X-outs are out.

Your association playday probably doesn't implement that local rule (but make sure!). But many important amateur tournaments, plus all high-level amateur and pro tournaments, do adopt the List of Conforming Golf Balls as a Local Rule, making X-outs "illegal" to use in those competitions.

The answer to whether X-outs are OK under the Rules to use in competition is: sometimes. In high-level tournaments, no; in local events, possibly.

But let's be real: If you are playing X-outs, it is very unlikely you are the type of golfer who will be playing any high-level tournaments. If you want to use your X-outs for a club or association tournament, a charity tournament or some such, it's probably OK to do so. But check with the tournament organizers to make sure.

And you can always use X-outs for your own daily play out there on the course with your buddies.

Related articles:

R&A and USGA. Official Rules of Golf.

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