Do golf balls get waterlogged? It’s a great question since the vast majority of golf courses have water hazards. If you’re buying a batch of used golf balls, it’s safe to assume that a fair amount of them, at one point or another, were recovered from a water hazard. Heaven knows I’ve created a lake ball or two [hundred] during my time on the course.
The simple answer to this question is Yes. Golf balls can get waterlogged.
With this in mind, you may be wondering whether a recycled golf ball or a refinished golf ball is still good to use? Does water influence recycled ball performance? Are lake balls any good?
This guide will take an in-depth look at whether golf balls can become waterlogged, the effect this may have on performance, and whether you should play with a waterlogged ball.
Golf Ball Construction
In order to better understand exactly how water can affect a golf ball, it’s useful to know how golf balls are constructed. The modern golf ball consists of multiple layers (usually two, three, or four) and an outside cover.
The interior layers of a new golf ball possess all the flashy core technology, but it’s the outer shell which is most important for protecting the ball from the elements, including water.
There are two main types of outer layer: surlyn and urethane. Both are built with durability in mind.
Golf balls are designed to compress at the moment of impact from a golf club. If you’re an avid golfer, you may know that the golf ball shrinks ever so slightly when it’s hit. It quickly returns to its original shape.
This compression allows for greater energy transfer and increases the carry distance of the ball. For most golfers, optimum ball speed and distance is the goal.
Can Balls Get Waterlogged?
The simple answer is yes, but golfers should know that manufacturers plan carefully for wet golf ball conditions. Each ball is designed to withstand rain and other moisture (in limited doses).
Studies show that once a golf ball spends 12 hours in the water, the outer shell will begin to allow water to enter the ball. Once the water breaches the outer shell, performance will be affected.
Golfers playing with a water ball — not a ball that got wet, but a ball that sat in water — should expect less distance from that ball.
Picky about distance on the golf course? You may want to purchase those Pro V1x new.
Again, this decrease in performance is a slow process. It won’t immediately occur if your ball spends just a couple of minutes in the water.
The exact time it takes for golf balls to become waterlogged is a hotly-contested topic, but research seems to indicate the following:
- 1 week in the water = 5 to 10 yard loss in driving distance
- 3 months in the water = 20 to 30 yard loss in driving distance
Does Water Influence Golf Ball Performance?
Yes. There seems to be no disputing the fact that water has a negative impact on golf ball performance.
Water particles inside of a golf ball will keep golfers from achieving maximum distance off the tee. This may not hurt Bryson or someone with high swing speed, but the average golfer may be looking for above average distance.
This degraded performance is intensified if the ball has been lying around in water for months, or even years.
Unfortunately, when you buy refinished balls, the company selling them to you can’t specify how long the balls (or how many of those balls) spent time in the water.
For beginners, the drop in performance might not matter all that much. In fact, dropping a bunch of money on golf balls at pro shop prices may be a waste.
For advanced players however, the potential loss of yardage is significant. Playing with the best golf equipment is more important than saving a few bucks. Playing with new Pro V1 golf balls probably makes more sense than using a refurbished ball.
Can You Use Waterlogged Balls?
Of course you can. As we discussed earlier, modern golf ball covers are well designed. Evidence shows that a few months in a lake will affect a golf ball’s performance, but it doesn’t make the ball unusable.
If you’re looking for a career as a golf ball diver, there is plenty of demand for waterlogged golf balls.
Who Should Use Lake Balls?
If you’re a casual golfer, if you retrieve a ball from a water hazard, it’s still fine to use. You just shouldn’t expect the off-the-shelf performance of a new ball.
Stashing a few water balls in your golf bag will save you some money. The difference in performance will likely be too small to even notice. I’m not trying to insult your golf game, as I would say the same thing to myself.
Use lake balls if:
- you are an average golfer who is willing to lose a few yards of distance
- you mostly play par 3 and executive golf courses (where distance is less important)
- you are on a tighter budget
- you lose golf balls regularly
Avoid lake balls if:
- you want to improve your distance off the tee
- you are a low handicapper who normally plays with a premium ball
- you have a flexible budget
The potential for water damage is always a possibility with a recycled ball, so choosing to play with new balls is the only way to guarantee maximum performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are refurbished balls a good choice?
Do golf balls get waterlogged? Yes, and that can have a slight affect on yardage off the tee.
So when you go to purchase a refurbished golf ball, you won’t know if it’s been in the water. You should assume it has.
Refurbished golf balls are a good choice if you’re looking to save money and you aren’t too worried about losing a bit of performance.
Most refurbished balls have their cover sandblasted and painted to match the detail of the original ball, but this can affect the dimple pattern (and ultimately the spin) of your ball.
A refinished golf ball looks brand new, but with a modified cover and potentially a waterlogged core, you may sacrifice some yards.
Should a beginner use waterlogged balls?
If you’re a beginner golfer that’s looking for the best of the best, then no, waterlogged balls definitely aren’t the best choice. However, for most beginners, lake balls are a great budget option.
As a beginner, it safe to say that you’ll lose some golf balls as you develop your skills. Why not save a bit of money along the way? There are a ton of options on Amazon.
My advice: repurpose all of that extra cash into a nice set of forgiving irons.