Golf Balls Stamped 'Practice': What You Need to Know

Titleist Pro V1 Practice balls
Have you ever seen a brand-name golf ball — say, a Titleist or TaylorMade ball — that had the word "Practice" stamped on it? What does it mean when a manufacturer does that? Are "Practice" balls just as good as "regular" balls? Let's answer these and other questions.

First, let's be clear what we are talking about. We are not talking about "practice balls." "Practice balls" are plastic balls, foam balls, reduced-flight balls, various other types of golf ball stand-ins that are sold specifically for golfers to use during practice sessions — but they are not real golf balls. We're also not talking about range balls.

The "Practice" balls (and obviously this is how it can get confusing — golfers can't see spelling and punctuation in conversation) we are discussing here are real golf balls, the same brands and models you know, but have the word "Practice" (or sometimes just a "P" inside a circle) stamped on them. A Titleist Pro V1, for example, but with the word "Practice" stamped on the side.

What's wrong with a ball stamped "Practice"? Why would a manufacturer do that? Golf ball manufacturers have very exacting standards for the balls that carry their brands. Sometimes, golf balls are discovered in the manufacturing process that do not meet those standards. If a golf ball has cosmetic blemishes, for example, the manufacturer won't release that ball for sale at regular price in the usual way. But, depending on how bad the defect is, the ball-maker doesn't necessarily throw them out, either.

One option is to stamp "Practice" on such a ball and sell it a little cheaper than the regular ball. If TaylorMade spots some golf balls coming out of the factory whose paint and graphics are not up to standard, it can stamp "Practice" on them and still sell them.

A Titleist spokesperson once explained that balls stamped "Practice" "differ only due to a cosmetic blemish such as paint, ink or registration of stamping."

Do "Practice" balls perform exactly the same as regular balls? Yes. The only issue with a ball stamped "Practice" is cosmetic. There are no known problems with the ball's construction and there is no difference between a "Practice" ball's flight and performance characteristics and those of the regular version of that golf ball.

As TaylorMade has explained on its website, a "Practice" ball, compared to the regular version of a given golf ball, does not "have any construction or performance deficiencies."

Are "Practice" balls and X-outs the same thing? No. With "Practice" balls the purchaser is assured there are no performance problems with the golf balls so-stamped. With X-out golf balls, however, that is not the case. An X-out might have only cosmetic blemishes, but with X-outs there is also the possibility of minor physical or performance defects. This is why X-out golf balls cost less than balls stamped "Practice." For more on this, see What's the Difference Between X-Outs and Practice Balls?

Are golf balls stamped "Practice" conforming? Yes. Because the only difference between the same model/brand of golf balls — one that has "Practice" stamped on it and one that doesn't — is cosmetic, they are considered identical. A ball with "Practice" stamped on it is no different than a golf ball that has a sports team's logo applied, or the golfer's name stamped on it. A Titleist Pro V1 and a Titleist Pro V1 Practice are the same golf ball.

TaylorMade has explained, "(A)ll golf balls on the USGA/R&A conforming list may be used in a casual round of golf — including those where scores are posted for handicaps — and during competition. Thus ... Practice balls can be used during any round of golf. Refer to rule 4.2a(1)/2 for more info."

The governing bodies directly address the legality of "Practice" balls in Clarification 4.2a(1)/2. For more on this, see Can You Use 'Practice' Balls in Competition? Are They Legal?

Related articles:

R&A and USGA. Official Rules of Golf. TP5/TP5 Practice Balls, Team Titleist, "Dumb question," Team Titleist, "X-Out Balls,"

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