Golf glossary: What it means to ‘span’ and how to do it

The word span can be a noun, usually a bridge, or a verb. In the golf vocabulary, span is never a bridge.

image of bridge span

You’re having a wonderful day on the golf course, but then your companion says, “Go ahead and span that.”

Span? Span what? If your glitzy ball marker is on her line and it’s her turn to putt, you may have figured out that she wants you to move the roadblock.

So in golf, to span means to temporarily move your ball marker to a position where another player will not hit it. And, most important in a tournament, you have to move the ball marker back before you putt or you’ll receive a two-stroke penalty.

GottaGoGolf believes that in a friendly, recreational round there should be no spanning required. To save time and get us to the 19th hole faster, we simply move our ball slightly (no closer to the hole of course) so that our friends don’t have to go through the spanning procedure.

Alas, some of GottaGoGolf’s friends are sticklers for spanning. So here are a few things to keep in mind if someone insists, or if you are playing in a tournament.


  • Span only when asked. You do not have to ask, “Would you like me to span that?”
  • When asked, you may ask, “Where would you like my marker?” and your friend will then say whether you should go left or right.
  • Line yourself up with a landmark — a tree or a structure — and use your putter head to measure your move. On a really big breaker, you might use the length of the putter.
  • You may move your marker if you already have placed your ball, or you may move the ball before you’ve marked it.
  • Turn your marker upside down so that you remember to move it back.

Finally, always do your best to remember to remind the player who has spanned for you to move her marker back. It’s a stupid rule that would penalize her for having done something nice for you. No need to compound the stupidity.

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