There are a lot of different things you need to play golf, from clubs to proper footwear, a golf bag… the list goes on.
Golf clubs in particular get most of the attention, claiming to be able to extend your distance and improve your accuracy and precision, while things like proper golf shoes, gloves, and bags offer comfort and safety.
These make up some of the most costly items golfers invest in, but there’s one crucial piece of equipment that all golfers require and that many underestimate, the golf ball itself!
Many golfers, from beginners to more experienced players are content to use subpar or poorly maintained golf balls which can have a huge impact on the distance of your shots and the quality of your play.
Some golfers will use the same ball for an incredibly long period of time, without even thinking about how the ball may be affecting their performance, or if the ball may be losing integrity and performance.
In this guide, we’re going to look at if golf balls go bad, how this happens, and which golf balls are the worst affected to help you maximize your performance and to know when it’s time for a replacement.
What Can Happen To Golf Balls Over Time?
Golf balls are naturally very robust, and they have to be as there are very few objects which are designed to take such consistent punishment and withstand such force without totally breaking apart.
In this sense, golf balls already offer excellent durability and longevity and are some of the most durable sports products on the planet.
They have been developed over the course of the last several decades to not only withstand this punishment, but offer increasingly better accuracy, consistency, and distance, using various new designs and materials to maximize their performance.
However, while durable, golf balls don’t have an indefinite lifespan, and like all things, they will eventually start to lose performance or require retirement.
But what causes this?
The first and most obvious reason is pure wear and tear, which is unavoidable for golf balls that are used even sparingly.
Scratches, dents, and ruptures can start to appear in well-used golf balls and can cause anything from poor putting accuracy to far shorter and less accurate drives off the tee.
Another major factor determining the longevity of your golf balls is the temperature at which they are stored.
When exposed to high temperatures or low temperatures there is a chance that the golf ball could deform or its structure could be compromised due to the temperature and its effects on the molecules of the various materials the ball is made up of.
This could in turn make the ball more susceptible to a major failure, or simply affect its performance.
Another key factor is moisture. A golf ball that gets wet or which is left in water for a long time will almost certainly lose performance and be damaged by this type of exposure.
Even just an hour or two in a puddle of water can allow water to enter the ball and its construction, massively reducing the effectiveness of the ball and compromising its external and internal design and structure.
This can in turn make the ball lose distance, fly inconsistently, or start to fall apart, all of which are particularly apparent during tee shots, the most crucial shot on every hole.
As an example, if a standard 2-piece golf ball is submerged in water for several days, the ball may lose anything up to 10 yards of distance and roll, which is a significant loss of performance, particularly at low handicap play.
Most golfers are always trying to find ways to add just a few extra yards to their stroke, so losing 10 or more yards due to something too simple as an old or compromised ball is very problematic.
A ball submerged in water for 3 months can lose around 15 yards of distance which is really a game-changing amount and means the ball is now essentially useless.
However this is just for the simplest and most basic golf ball, and many players use 3-piece or even 4-piece golf balls which are all far more badly affected by water damage, meaning they lose more distance and lose it faster, so keeping your balls as dry as possible is a must.
Can Unused Golf Balls Lose Performance?
While it’s clear used golf balls lose a lot of performance over time, can the same be said for unused golf balls?
Well, thankfully yes, golf balls kept in a controlled and cool environment and away from moisture can last over 10 years without losing performance, as the core materials and components won’t be at all changed or damaged by not being used.
This isn’t really surprising, as golf balls are very tough and are made to withstand huge pressure and forces, so being left alone really shouldn’t affect them at all.
Do Some Golf Balls Last Longer Than Others?
A common question for people looking for the best possible value golf ball.
The most famous and endorsed golf ball is arguably the Titleist Pro V1, a favorite of many professional players for its distance and innovative 4-piece design.
If stored correctly it will last a very long time however it’s hard to say for certain how much better one brand of golf balls will last compared to others.
Simpler two-piece balls may be more durable but offer worse performance to start off with, and any ball which is heavily used will have all sorts of differences that make testing difficult.
Generally, all golf balls will last roughly the same amount of time, with simpler designs potentially lasting longer, but offering negligible benefits regardless.
While golf balls can certainly go bad, if looked after reasonably well they will serve you for a very long time, and even old balls which have been used and abused can still be good for taking to the driving range or the pitch and putt, so don’t simply throw them away unless they are totally compromised.