There are times when a game of golf involves a certain level of sacrifice. The weather is not always perfect. Perhaps you need to spend money on a new set of carbon fibre clubs. Caddies can be unreliable on occasion. These and other situations will normally be handled with few complaints. In the same respect, you could be forced to play a round with used balls. Might this present a problem? We are not necessarily referring to visual aesthetics or the opinions of others here. The main question involves whether or not used balls go further than newer models. This is actually a rather interesting topic, as there are two opinions to the proverbial coin. What have scientific studies found? Are aerodynamics really that important? If you are hoping to tackle difficult holes or should you desire to add a bit of distance to your drive, the condition of the ball may very well play a significant role. Let’s take a look at the logic behind this observation.
Do Golf Balls Lose Distance With Age? A Bit of Physics
The technology associated with golf balls has evolved at a breakneck pace over the past few decades. The majority of well-known brands are now engineered to the highest of standards. Each ball is required to weigh exactly 45.93 grams. Its circumference must be no less than 42.67 millimetres. In other words, there is little room for error in terms of performance. Why are these figures so very important?
Golf balls have been engineered with speed, distance and precision in mind. They are vigorously tested within laboratory conditions and each batch is subjected to random examinations in order to ensure quality assurance. Unfortunately, use can have a surprising impact. This arises from several factors including:
- Whether or not the ball has lost is spherical shape (even in the slightest).
- If the dimples have been compromised in any way.
- The presence of dirt and other debris on the surface.
It should already be obvious that balls which have been used for extended periods of time might suffer from minor structural flaws. This is the very same reason why official Major League baseballs in the United States are not utilised multiple times (think of an umpire who gives the catcher a new ball every time one is fouled off).
The main issue here is that golf is often a game of distance and accuracy. If the surface of the ball is compromised in any way, there is no doubt that its trajectory will be impacted. The same holds true in regards to putting on the green. Even a slight variation in its spherical nature could cause a deviation on the way to the hole. This might make all of the difference in the world between walking away a winner and questioning what went wrong. Let us now take a look at what some recent studies have uncovered.
There have been some studies associated with the subject of lost distance. These were concerned with balls found underwater and subsequently retrieved. The only issue here is that the balls were considered to be in mint condition and the length of time remaining submerged were not taken into account. This is why it should come as no surprise that the subsequent findings indicated little to no difference in terms of driving distances. However, we need to look at this situation from a different perspective.
Do Golf Balls Lose Distance with Use?
Researchers purposely left golf balls underwater for three specified amounts of time:
- One month
- Three months
- Five months
They were placed at a depth of five feet within a pond located in a dedicated testing facility. In other words, they were located in a very controlled environment in order to rule out any extraneous variables that might have otherwise confounded the results.
Once the balls were removed after the respective time periods, they were hit with a robotic apparatus designed to impact the ball with a swing speed of 94 miles per hour. Several data sets were recorded including:
- How long it took for the ball to land.
- The total distance including the subsequent roll.
- The flight consistency (trajectory).
Now that we can understand the testing parameters, it only makes sense to examine the findings. Let us see what the researchers discovered.
Was Any Distance Lost?
It might come as a slight surprise to learn that there were no appreciable variations when compared to completely new balls. To put it simply, the balls performed the same as the control group regardless of the time that they spent underwater before being removed. It is therefore apparent that submersion has little to no effect upon distance. Although the results are clear from a relatively short-term point of view, it is not entirely clear whether balls that remain underwater for extended periods of time (for more than five months) would possible react differently. However, there are additional factors that need to be taken into account before drawing a sound conclusion.
What About Other Issues with Used Golf Balls?
We have just seen that water has little effect upon the performance of a golf ball. This is likely the result of modern manufacturing technology. Cutting-edge materials are employed within their design and they are now engineered to the highest of standards. The weights and diameters are closely monitored in order to ensure continuous quality assurance. Thus, there are actually few differences between golf balls other than the branding.
However, what about used golf balls that might have dirty or similarly compromised surfaces? The aerodynamics associated with modern golf balls help to ensure that they are able to attain maximum distance and accuracy (assuming that they are hit correctly by the player). The issue here is that surface imperfections can dramatically alter these characteristics.
Let us consider for a moment a ball that is caked with dirt. What would happen if it is not properly cleaned before a long drive? There is no doubt that the dirt will serve to alter its trajectory. While this might equate to only a fraction of a millimetre, even small variants will become exponentially exaggerated over long distances. This is just as true if one or more dimples happen to be filled in with debris.
Why Purchasing New Golf Balls Could be a Wise Choice
Any golf enthusiasts wishes to leverage a combination of distance and accuracy while on the course. The main question therefore involves how much used golf balls might possibly leave to chance. This will partially depend upon the outing itself. For example, those who are simply looking to a bit of extra practice will normally choose used balls. The same holds true if you happen to be heading to a driving range. However, any type of professional tournament or even a competition between friends could very well benefit from the presence of new balls. If this seems outlandish, take a moment to think about the last time a world-renowned player employed a used ball when trying to win a championship.
The other issue associated with used golf balls involves their appearance. New models are known for their bright white colour. This makes them very easy to find if they happen to land in the rough or within a bunker. Players who opt for used balls might have difficulty to find their ultimate location. This is obviously a problem if others happen to be waiting to take their turn. Although new balls are relatively expensive when compared to their used counterparts, they could very well be worth the investment if you wish to leave nothing to chance.
Your Distance Questions Answered How much distance do you lose with old golf balls? The answer to this question will depend upon the condition of the ball. While immersion in water does not appear to cause a significant impact, the same cannot be said if the surface happens to be dirty or otherwise compromised. Those who are concerned about the length of their drive as well as the associated accuracy could therefore be wise to purchase a new set of balls. Having said this, there is nothing wrong with using older balls if you happen to be practising or playing for fun. Even the smallest adjustments can have a massive impact upon your game, so be sure to keep these recommendations in mind.