How to Replace a Divot
If the divot is intact and there is soil still attached, simply replace it in the correct orientation and firmly press the divot into the ground with your foot. Pressing down is important because this establishes good contact between turf roots and the soil, which helps the divot heal. Pressing down also creates a firm, smooth surface that provides better playability if someone's ball ends up on the divot while it is healing. If there are any significant gaps between the divot and the surrounding turf, fill them with divot mix and smooth it with your foot. This will help the turf knit back together.
How to Fill a Divot
If a divot does not have any soil attached, or if it has shattered into small pieces, it cannot be replaced and expected to heal properly. Filling the divot with divot mix is the best option in these situations. Depending on the course and the grass types, divot mix may be pure sand or it may contain seed to aid in recovery. Regardless of what's in the mix, the way to properly fill a divot is the same: Add mix until it is slightly below the height of the adjacent turf, then smooth the mix and press down with your foot. It is worth taking a few extra seconds to get the level just right. Too little mix will create poor playability and may not allow the divot to heal fully. Too much mix creates playability issues and can damage mowing equipment.
Making our best effort to repair divots is an easy way to care for the course and help others enjoy their round. Knowing the correct technique is an important first step. You should also check with the golf shop before your round to see if the course has any specific divot-repair policies.
Once on the course, take pride in your divot repair. Who knows, the divot you repair today could give you a better lie the next time around.
George Waters is the USGA’s manager of Green Section education. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.