How to Use an On-Course Golf Ball Washer

Many golf courses provide on-course ball washers to golfers. They can often be found atop a post near the teeing area of each hole: A plastic or metal box or other container that holds water and, often, some type of detergent. Inside the box, there are also bristles for scrubbing. If you are a newcomer to the game, you might now know how to use one. So read on.

Ball washers might also be found attached to each golf cart. At one time, ball washers were so ubiquitous that even Augusta National Golf Club had them next to each tee. (You can find older photographs from The Masters in which the pros are seen using Augusta National ball washers during that major championship.) Some mini-golf courses even have them (as in the video clip on this page).

A golfer may need to use a ball washer because there is mud on the ball (on wet days at the course), or grass, dirt or other debris. So how, exactly, does one use an on-course ball washer? It's very simple.

Step 1: Give your golf ball a quick rub with a towel (or rub it against the turf if there's a big clump of mud on it).

Step 2: Insert your ball into the ball washer. The most-common, on-course ball washers use a plunger. So lift the plunger out of the reservoir. There will be a hole at the bottom of the plunger that fits a golf ball. Insert the ball into that hole.

Step 3: Move the plunger (also called an agitator) up and down in a piston action. You are pushing the ball down into the reservoir, into the water (and maybe detergent) and through the cleaning bristles. (Note that some ball washers require the golfer use a hand crank on the side of the reservoir; the plunger-type are more common.)

Step 4: Raise the plunger to expose your golf ball and check for cleanliness. Repeat Step 3 if your ball is not yet clean.

Step 5: Remove your clean golf ball from the plunger and wipe it dry (many golf courses provide a towel that is attached to the post atop which the ball washer sits).

That's it. Easy-peasy.

It should be noted that on-course ball washers, although very common, aren't as common today as they once were. Providing these ball washers is an expense to the golf course, and they require maintenance: They have parts that wear out over time, the water inside the reservoir requires changing, the cleaners themselves require cleaning, and so on.

There are also golf accessory brands today that make what are called "personal golf ball washers" or "portable golf ball washers" (affiliate link, commissions earned) — products that clip onto a golf bag or that are small enough to fit into a golf bag (or even a pants pocket).

So while the traditional, by-each-tee golf ball washers are still very common sights on golf courses, some courses have started doing away with them.

Related articles:

Sources:, "Death of the golf-ball washer: Why this once-familiar staple is falling out of favor,", "Ball Washers,"

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