So you bought some expensive new golf balls, and are worried about how many rounds you can get per ball before changing them out. That’s a valid question, as golf balls can get very expensive if you buy premium balls. But should you worry about their longevity?
The answer is no.
Golf balls will last for 7 rounds before wear even begins to affect your game. You are more likely to lose the golf ball before you ever need to replace it. There’s no reason to use a different ball as long as there aren’t any deep gouges or cuts.
We need to look at some factors, as some circumstances can affect your ball more than others. Let’s dive in and see what materials a golf ball is manufactured with and what factors can negatively affect their performance in an average round.
Table of Contents
- Cover Material
- Core Material
- Average Life Span
- Sand is the Enemy
- Wedge Shots are Damaging
- Don’t Buy Refurbished or Refinished
- Storage and Shelf Life
- The Takeaway – How Long Do Golf Balls Last?
The cover of a golf ball is made of one of two materials: urethane or ionomer. These two materials are overwhelmingly used in golf balls’ production, and both have very different characteristics. But which is better for durability and longevity?
The urethane golf balls will be your more high-end, expensive golf balls. Think Titleist Pro V1 or Callaway Chrome Soft. This material is softer, thus making it more likely to take damage from regular shots. This type of cover is a big part of what makes the premium ball feel great, but it is also their downfall when it comes to damage.
Ionomer covers are used on the more affordable golf ball lines and tend to have a more solid feel. The more clicky feel is something many players don’t enjoy but does come with the positive of the cover being extremely durable. Players often speak of how hard these golf balls feel, which is due to the ionomer cover and its stable properties.
Once upon a time, the golf ball’s core was made up of tightly wound rubber bands. When that was the practice for creating them, the actual center could break due to a strong enough hit, and that would often leave the golf ball with a lump or flat spot on it. A misshapen ball would affect distance, flight, and roll.
Manufacturers no longer make golf balls with the rubber band cores, and the solid rubber material inside is much more durable. While there are often multiple layers of variable thickness and density, each is more than durable enough to handle a beating.
Average Life Span
You should be able to get at least seven rounds out of a golf ball, at least according to Golf Week and Golf Digest. This assertion is just a generalized average, and many factors could contribute to it being longer or shorter than that.
If you have a medium to slow swing speed, you’ll not put as much stress on the golf ball, giving them even more longevity. For once, the lack of distance is good news for senior players. As long as you don’t lose your ball in a lake or the trees, you can play it for many rounds.
If you are playing on a well-manicured, top-notch golf course, your golf ball will have increased longevity. The ball will roll across perfect, luscious fairways and greens, and you don’t have to worry about any nasty tree roots or hardpan. If you play on your local budget course, there’s a good chance that your ball will take extra damage.
Sand is the Enemy
If you tend to find many of your shots landing in the bunkers, you will have a hard time keeping your ball scuff free. The landing and rolling in the bunker are more demanding on the golf ball’s cover than in regular grass. Also, when you hit your shot, the sand particles between the ball and the clubface will add extra abrasion that can cause additional damage to the ball.
When you get into a bunker that’s either wet or just not taken care of properly, an entirely new issue comes up. When you have to pick the ball off the top of the sand, the club’s grooves are more likely to damage the cover.
Many people will try to pass off balls they have found in water as “good as new,” but should you buy recovered lake balls? The answer is a resounding no. Golf balls underwater for more than a couple of hours can get “waterlogged,” or water can find its way inside the outer cover.
If water gets to the core, it will drastically decrease performance, and should never be put into play if you want the highest performance possible.
What if I Retrieve My Ball From the Water?
As long as you can retrieve your ball before your next shot, your ball will not have any adverse effects. It takes time for water to travel into the ball through the micro-cracks on the surface from being hit with force. Given that, as long as you get your ball back immediately after hitting the errant shot, there will be no issues.
Wedge Shots are Damaging
If there’s one type of club that can damage your golf ball, it is a wedge. The grooves and high amount of spin generated by these clubs can shred the cover on a golf ball if hit with enough force.
That’s terrible news for people wanting the most distance out of their ball, as a scuff can be detrimental to tee shots.
As mentioned before, the damage a ball receives from a wedge can be even worse if hitting from a bunker. Between the power bunker swing, the sand, and the spin generated, it is an equation that can easily equal damage to your ball.
Minor discoloration and scratches are acceptable; try to steer clear of the deep gouges, cuts, and scrapes: all of which can happen due to wedge shots.
Don’t Buy Refurbished or Refinished
The odds of getting golf balls that have received damage is almost guaranteed. That means these balls will chip, cut, and take damage at a much higher rate. While they may look almost new, it is nothing more than a coat of paint and a new logo stamped on the outside.
If you can find used golf balls, sometimes called recycled, those are a different story. As long as they aren’t lake finds (check out the waterlogged section above to see why that’s a bad idea), and don’t have any significant damage, these can be played with confidence.
If the recycled golf balls you find have marks on them, discoloration, or scratches that aren’t rough to the touch, they are perfectly fine to play with generally. If you can feel the scratches, scrapes, or cuts, the golf ball will not perform as well as a new ball.
While this still may not be a game-breaker for some people, it isn’t ideal for those looking to get the highest quality out of their shots.
Storage and Shelf Life
What about golf balls you have never even opened? How long can you store them and still get the same performance out of them when it is their time to go in the bag? According to Titleist (the top golf ball manufacturer), the answer is five years or more. After that, they could potentially degrade in performance.
Storing Golf Balls in a Freezer
This myth started many years ago, stating that if you freeze your golf balls, it will preserve the “freshness” and “compression.” These stories are nothing more than a myth and have been debunked time and time again. If you play golf with a ball that is colder than the playing conditions, it can decrease performance, especially distance. Do yourself a favor and never try this.
Storing Golf Balls Outside
Going on the other end of the spectrum, if you have an old shed out back of your house and throw a sleeve of balls out there for future use, there’s a good chance the balls will be of no use at that time.
Just as freezing them is a bad idea, exposing them to extreme heat isn’t smart either. Doing so can permanently deform the balls and make them unplayable.
Storing Golf Balls In Your Bag
Many people elect to put a whole box of golf balls directly in their golf bag for storage. This is generally a fine place to store them as long as your bag is put inside a temperature-controlled area.
This could be your home or office, as long as the temperature remains cool, and there’s no excessive heat or dampness. You also don’t want to leave your bag in a hot vehicle or long, as this can have an adverse effect as well.
The Takeaway – How Long Do Golf Balls Last?
As long as you properly store your golf balls in a cool, dry place, you’ll be able to keep them for years. As far as playing life goes, you are sure to lose a golf ball well before it wears out. If you play in the rain often or hit a ton of wedge and bunker shots, you could cut the ball, in which case you’ll need to replace it.
Besides cutting or severe damage, light damage is expected and will not decrease performance in any noticeable way. So go out, enjoy your rounds, and play the same ball until you knock it in the drink or rip up the cover with a zippy wedge.