Not too long ago, I found someone on Facebook Marketplace who was selling a 5 gallon bucket of old golf balls.
Since I’m not a professional golfer, my golf game sometimes requires an extra golf ball or two. I also appreciate a good bargain, so I was curious to know just how many golf balls fit in a 5 gallon bucket. This would help me determine whether or not the seller was offering great deal. It also assumes that the bucket wasn’t filled with a bunch of junky range balls.
So what did I do? I ponied up the cash and employed a team of engineers and physicists to help me out.
…just kidding, that wasn’t in the budget. Instead, I put my middle child to work and paid him $3 for his efforts (that was in the budget).
So that leads us back to the $3 question:
How Many Golf Balls Fit in a 5 Gallon Bucket?
I was surprised to learn that 320 golf balls fit into a 5 gallon bucket, but depending on how carefully they are placed in the bucket, that number can range anywhere from 297-343 balls (more on how we calculated that later).
In our experiment, we were able to fit 311 golf balls into our bucket. My original guess was 200, so the bucket’s holding capacity was much higher than expected.
In fact, when my son began counting for me, we actually ran out of golf balls and had to reach out to a friend of ours who had plenty of extra golf balls on hand.
A special thanks to Jaxson D. for helping us tackle this project and providing us with photos.
A Few Research Notes and Disclaimers:
- Bucket size = 5 gallon bucket (like you would find at Lowes or Home Depot)
- We used a standard golf ball to fill the bucket. Nothing else.
- The holding size of the bucket can vary depending on how carefully the balls are placed in the bucket.
- We capped off the bucket when the golf balls were level with the top.
Is there a scientific way to figure out how many golf balls a 5 gallon bucket can hold?
Of course there is, but I try to avoid science and math at all costs. I had to call in my wife to help with this one.
Doing some fancy math will help you arrive at an answer without hand counting all of the golf balls.
First let’s figure out how much space a golf ball takes up.
The standard diameter of a golf ball is 42.7 mm. That would make its radius 21.35 mm.
A 5 gallon bucket is a sphere, and the formula for the volume of a sphere is: V = (4/3) × pi × (21.35 mm)3
For our purposes, let’s say that pi = 3.14.
V = (4/3) × (3.14) × (21.35 mm)3
V = 40,743.85 mm3
Cubic millimeters are small compared to bucket will be filling, so let’s convert our answer to cubic centimeters.
1 cm = 10 mm
(1 cm)3 = (10mm)3
1 cm3 = 1,000 mm3
V = 40,743.85 mm3 × (1 cm3/1,000 mm3) is approximately 40.74 cm3
To simplify the math we’ve done so far without the limitations of typed text, here’s an overview:
Now, let’s figure out how much our bucket can hold.
By definition, a 5 gallon bucket can hold 5 gallons.
1 gallon = 3785.41 cm3
Multiply by 5
5 gallons = 18,927.1 cm3
If our bucket holds 18,927.1 cm3 and each ball takes up 40.74 cm3 of space, our instinct might be to say that a 5 gallon bucket can hold 465 golf balls.
18,927.1 cm3 ÷ 40.74 cm3 = 465
But this doesn’t account for the space between the balls inside the bucket. The geometrical term for this is sphere packing. The closest packing of uniform spheres uses approximately 74% of the volume. Random or irregularly packed uniform spheres will typically have a density of about 64%.
(Side note: I’m not sure who figured all of this stuff out, but I’m sure glad it wasn’t me.)
Let’s say we have carefully and precisely added the golf balls to our bucket. We may have around 344 golf balls in a 5 gallon bucket.
.74 × 18,927.1 cm3 ÷ 40.74 cm3 = 343.7
If the golf balls are randomly packed into the bucket, there may approximately 297 golf balls in a 5 gallon bucket.
.64 × 18,927.1 cm3 ÷ 40.74 cm3 = 297.3
With these two scenarios in mind, let’s take their average as a good approximation.
(343.7 × 297.3) ÷ 2 = 320.5
Why This Number Matters
Depending on the way the golf balls are packed inside the bucket and the bucket’s specific shape, a 5 gallon bucket will likely hold around 320 golf balls.
This is useful data if…
- You’re looking to keep a fairly accurate count of your own golf ball inventory
- You’re the type of person who likes to memorize random facts
- You’re trying to score a deal on Facebook Marketplace or a local yard sale
I’m a big fan of real life application, so let’s hone in on the yard sale example.
If someone is selling a 5 gallon bucket of golf balls for $50, you could purchase golf balls in bulk for about .16 cents each. Assuming those golf balls aren’t old range balls, that’s a solid deal!
Knowledge is power, my friend.