How to play with Mud on Golf Ball

The Mud Ball in Golf: What it is and How to Play

Golf is hard but a dirty mud ball makes it even harder. 

When you’re playing winter golf and find mud on your ball, this can present some serious challenges. But when you’re done reading this article, you will know exactly how to play these difficult shots and hopefully not let wet conditions affect your score.

As you will learn, mud changes a lot so don’t try to play it like a normal shot. Keep reading to learn more about how mud impacts your ball flight and the best strategies to navigate these tricky situations. 

What is a Mud Ball in Golf

A mud ball is simply a golf term where the ball is impacted by wet winter golf conditions. When playing during winter or rain, mud and debris can accumulate on the golf ball. 

Mud attached to the ball can cause some errant shots with your golf balls if you don’t know how to adjust your alignment and club choice.

While you won’t have a mud ball with your tee shot (since you can clean mud on the greens and before the next shot), it can impact other shots. Specifically, recovery shots, approach shots, short game shots, and even putting from the fringe. 

When you notice mud on the golf ball, it’s time to put your detective hat on to figure out what to do with the shot. Too many golfers try to play it like normal and suffer as a result.

Instead, you need to adjust your game plan as mud changes the flight, direction, and spin compared to a normal shot. The longer the shot, the more the mud will affect the overall result. 

If you’re playing winter rules, this isn’t as big of a deal as you can lift, clean the mud, and place it. But if you’re in the rough or the golf course is still playing summer rules, you need to factor mud on a lot more shots. 

How to Hit a Mud Ball in Winter Golf

So, how do you hit a mud ball in golf? 

It’s a good question because if you don’t use the right strategy it can have a big impact on your game.

The first step is to identify where the mud is on the golf ball and how much of it is on the surface of the ball. If mud is on the side, it will change the performance of it vs. if the mud is on the front or back of the ball. 

Here is the general rule on how the ball will react to a mud ball based on the location:

  • Mud on the left side means the ball will go right. 
  • Mud on the right side means the ball will go left.
  • A mud ball on the front part of the ball means it will have less backspin but still go relatively straight.
  • Mud on the back of the ball means it will not go as far since you can’t make solid contact with the grooves. 

The more mud on the ball means the more it will be affected during flight! If you have a small speck of mud, it won’t play a huge role but still can affect the flight of it. 

Change Your Approach Shot Strategy

After you identify where the mud is located, the next step is to adjust your approach strategy accordingly. If mud isn’t caked on the ball, you can still hit a normal shot but you need to adjust your aim by 5-10 yards. The longer the shot, the more the ball will get affected by the debris.

For example, let’s say you have 150 yards to the green (which is normally a 7-iron) with mud on the right side. I suggest taking a 6-iron and hitting more of a knockdown shot to try and “punch” the mud and keep it lower. 

Plus, you’ll want to aim 5-10 yards right of your normal target to account for the mud. Otherwise, the ball will likely shoot left and miss the green.

Play Conservatively 

When you notice mud on the golf ball, this is not the time to try and play ultra aggressive. Golf is hard enough but when you add mud on the surface, it makes things even more difficult. 

Instead, play conservatively and don’t make it worse by trying to hit a long club.

If you hit a hybrid or fairway wood with mud on the ball it can affect the direction 20-30 yards. Add in a side hill lie or windy conditions and you might end up hitting it out of bounds or in a tough spot on the golf course.

Instead, take less club and try to slap the mud off the ball and get the next shot on the green. If you have a long carry over water or hazards near the green, lay up to avoid a blow up hole.

Short Game Shots 

Finally, mud does impact short game shots too. For chipping and pitching, you will need to account for some direction change but not as much as a full shot. 

The biggest difference between a clean golf ball vs. normal golf ball is the lack of spin.

A ball that is caked with mud won’t spin much and needs to account for plenty of forward spin. Change your landing zone to account for the mud!

If you’re putting off the green, make sure to account for the mud as well. You typically need to hit the putt with more speed/acceleration as the mud will slow it down. It will also impact the direction of the putt depending on where the mud is located.

Once you’re on the green and can mark your ball, clean it immediately. I’ve seen so many golfers skip this and try to go tap in a short putt and see it miss from excess mud. Don’t waste shots by not cleaning your ball once you’re on the green.  

What is a Mud Ball in Golf

FAQs About Mud Balls 

Do you have more questions about hitting mud balls during the round? If so, keep reading to learn more now to deal with winter golf.

How much does mud affect a golf ball?

A little mud won’t affect it much but still likely impact the trajectory, direction, how much the ball spins and possibly distance. But if you have a significant chunk of mud, it can completely change the ball flight. 

If you’re playing in wet conditions and you can’t lift, clean, and place it, play cautiously with mud.

What does a mud ball do? 

A mud ball changes the flight and distance of a golf ball since some of the dimples are covered with debris. It’s imperative that you evaluate where (and how much) mud is on the ball before hitting the shot. 

As mentioned above, mud makes the ball do strange things in the air. If you don’t account for it or play too aggressively, it can lead to some big mistakes on the golf course. 

If mud is on the side of the ball, it will make the ball go in the opposite direction during flight. For example, if mud is on the left side of the ball, it will make it go right. 

Mud on the ball can also affect the spin for short game shots too. Once you’re able to clean the ball do so immediately so you don’t have to guess as much about how it will change the flight. 

Can you clean a mud ball in the fairway? 

If winter rules are in effect (also known as lift, clean, and place), then you can clean your golf ball in the fairway. But most clubs only allow you to pick up your ball and wipe it down if you’re in the short grass (aka closely mown areas). You need to place it back in the same spot according to the local rule or up to a club length depending on the course rules.

While a lot of people have a rule in the group that you can wipe it down from the rough as well (but this rarely happens in a tournament). Always make sure to check with your group before teeing off on what the rules are to avoid any mid-round confusion. 

Do PGA Tour players have to deal with mud balls?

Yes, rarely will a PGA event have a local rule for preferred lies. But if tee shots are creating mud ball after mud ball and/or the course is soaked due to rainy conditions, they will change the rules.

If you watch golf on TV, you can even hear players discuss with their caddies how mud will create extra weight and change the ball flight. Needless to say, even the best players prefer a clean ball vs. mud ball in golf.

Final Thoughts on Mud Balls in Golf 

Mud and tough weather conditions add an extra element to the game so it’s crucial to evaluate the ball before picking a shot. Golfers hate having to play a mud ball but if preferred lies in closely mown areas isn’t in effect, you need to adjust your approach.

If you’re playing winter rules, always make sure to wipe the ball clean before hitting your shot. But if you can’t or you’re in the rough, make sure to go through this process: 

  • Always evaluate the lie, total shot distance, how much mud is on the ball, and where it’s located to create a solid approach shot strategy.
  • The more mud means the ball will lose distance and change direction.
  • Mud makes the ball go sideways in the opposite direction of the mud so change your aim.
  • Play more conservatively, especially with longer shots, as the mud will affect the ball more. Don’t play overly aggressive, especially if there are hazards near the green. 
  • Finally, always adjust your aim to account for the mud moving sideways in the air.

Lee Trevino said he benefited from muddy conditions thanks to a low ball flight so it might not hurt your performance. Hopefully these tips will help you conquer a vital component of winter golf and save shots every round.