Do Used Golf Balls Lose Distance? Here Are The Facts

Many golf players are curious as to whether used golf balls lose distance. Maybe you want to shop for used golf balls since they are more affordable but you want to know if the performance still remains the same. Don’t worry, I decided to do a little research and here is what I found.

Do Used Golf Balls Lose Distance?

Yes, a used golf ball will lose distance but not by much yards. For example, a ball that is 10 years old, stored at room temperatures with low humidity will lose 0.5 to 1 percent of its initial velocity. This will in turn affect the distance by a few yards out.    

When you hit the golf ball with your golf club repeatedly, it forms minor scuffs on the surface. These small scuffs can lead to a measurable loss in distance and can potentially reduce the driver golf club distance as much as 6 yards.

According to many tests done, there is no significant impact on the distance or performance of a used golf ball compared to a new one. However, you may see some professional golfers change balls for every hole. This is not an indication that the balls have went bad.

The truth is that replacing golf balls for every hole is more based on superstition than the diminishing quality of the ball itself. The fact is that unless there is a visible damage to the cover of the ball, the average golf ball should last at least 7 full 18 hole rounds without losing any distance or performance.

You are better off worrying about other conditions that may affect distance such as wind, altitude and elevation. These factors have the greatest and most apparent effect on a golf ball’s distance (not the age). A golfer can anticipate a 2% increase in golf ball distance every  1,000 ft above sea level that a golf course sits.

How Many Hits Does A Golf Ball Take Before It Starts Losing Distance?

The general rule states that the core of the golf ball can withstand at least 100 golf strokes at 125 miles per hour before it cracks. This is enough to cover seven 18 hole rounds. At this stage, the golf ball can be replaced with a new one.

Golf balls that are visibly cut, cracked or out of shape should be immediately replaced. Players are allowed to substitute the unfit ball for a new ball if it happens during play.

Speaking of replacement, It’s also important to take note of the one-ball Local Rule before replacing your used golf ball. The PGA Tour uses this one ball rule. This means that the golf players are only allowed to use one specific brand and model of the golf ball during a round.

Going against this rule will result in a penalty of two strokes per hole that the ball is used (maximum of 8 strokes). Therefore it’s always important that you check the rules before playing.

How Does A Used Golf Ball Lose Distance?

We know that hitting the golf ball for more than 100 strokes will cause loss in performance and therefore affect distance. However, there are other factors that can cause a used golf ball to lose it’s distance. This includes:

1. Cold Weather

If you ever played golf in cold weather, then you might know that it can cause you to lose distance.

What’s the science behind it you may ask? Well simply put, the density of the air increases in cold weathers. Therefore the ball slows down considerably as it goes through the air. When the golf ball gets colder, it loses a few miles per hour in ball speed which means distance loss due to speed.

One scientific formula that explains this phenomenon is speed= distance/time

Speed is directly proportional to distance. Therefore as the speed of the ball decreases, the distance of the golf ball will also decrease.

As a rule of thumb, golf balls should be stored at 70 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Doing so can make the ball last forever. The golf balls will still perform fine if left in freezing cold or scorching weather conditions but only for a night or two or even for a week.

At 40 degree temperatures, the golf ball can slow down considerably and be shorter by 5 to 10 yards max.

2. Mud And Other Materials Sticking To It

Another factor that decreases distance on your golf ball is mud. Whenever there is mud all over your golf ball, it will affect the flight trajectory, shape and distance in a negative way. For example, if mud is on the top of the golf ball, it may spin the ball too much causing the ball to balloon up in the air thereby losing distance and accuracy.

When soil or other debris stick to the surface of the golf ball, players would often shout “mud ball”. Players know that a mud ball affects performance and distance. Therefore the rule about mud ball is put in place so that golfers can lift, clean and then replace the ball in it’s original place.

The science behind mud ball losing distance and accuracy is a simple one.  As the ball flies in the air, the mud creates air resistance, or drag force that sends the golf ball in the direction of the soiled side. Therefore, mud on the left part of the ball will send the ball to the left, meanwhile mud on the right side of the ball will send the ball to the right. This is why it’s important for players to call “mud ball” so that they can take the necessary steps to clean off the debris.

3. Wind

The wind speed and direction can either increase or decrease the distance of the golf ball. It’s therefore critical that golfers take into consideration this factor when striking their golf clubs.

The basic concept to keep in mind is that if your shot is heading in the same direction that the wind is blowing, then the speed of the ball will increase, thereby increasing the distance that the ball covers.

On the other hand, if the wind is blowing in the opposite direction that you shape your shot, then expect the ball to lose speed and distance. Hence, if you are hitting a draw (or a slice for a left-hander) and the wind is blowing right to left, the golf ball is likely to travel further.

Wind can affect golf ball distance by as much as 12 yards if traveling at around 10 mph. As a rule of thumb, researchers suggest that golf players should add 1% club distance for every 1mph of headwind, and subtract 0.5% club distance for every 1 mph of tailwind when choosing golf club on the course.

When playing on the golf course, you may experience different types of winds. For example a common wind is the crosswind that affects the golf ball distance. A crosswind can magnify any spin on the ball and greatly reduce distance especially if you are one of the 80% of players who likes to slice the ball.

Just remember these 5 tips for playing golf in the wind:

  • Loosen up your swing
  • Hit under the wind
  • Balance yourself
  • Select the right golf club
  • Adjust your shots

4. Waterlog

Waterlogged golf balls are balls that stay in water for long periods of time. When this happens water may seep through the outer layer/shell of the golf ball. This causes significant damage to the golf ball’s core, which is designed to be the ball’s energy source.

If the golf ball, for example, is allowed to sit in the lake of the golf course for more than a week, the ball will lose 5 to 10 yards in driving distance off the tee. And, if it is allowed to sit there after 3 months, the distance of the golf ball reduces further to 20 to 30 yards. That is quite substantial!

We can therefore conclude that it is not a good idea to have the golf ball sitting in the lake for such long periods of time. Studies show that after just 12 hours in the water, the outer most layer of the golf ball allows water to enter inside. So It’s best not to have it in the water for more than a hour.

Even if the waterlogged golf ball dries out, it is still not as effective as a golf ball that did not spend any time submerged in the water. The more time the ball is allowed to stay in the water is the less it will fly.

Final Verdict

Used golf balls will not lose distance as many tests have been performed showing no substantial difference compared to a brand new golf ball.

If your golf ball is less than 7 years old and there are no visible scuffs or damages to the ball, then you have little to worry about. A golf ball in good cosmetic shape will hold its shelf life for 5-7 years or seven 18 hole rounds.

I hope this article was very useful to you. You are now knowledgeable of the factors that affect the golf ball’s performance and distance. Now go out and have a good round of golf!


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