Used Golf Balls vs New Golf Balls?
This is a debate that rages on regardless of what the science says, so before I weigh in, let me give a few disclaimers for golf ball purists and then I’ll make my case.
- If you are playing at an important qualifying tournament, go ahead and play with new golf balls. I don’t want you to blame used balls if you don’t make the cut.
- If you have plenty of cash at your disposal, go ahead of play with new golf balls. We all benefit when you hit these golf balls in the nearest water hazard.
- If you are really concerned with appearances, go ahead and play with new golf balls. I want you to feel good about who you are. Leave it to your scrubby friends to play with cheap gear.
If you don’t fit any of the descriptors listed above, then you should be playing with used golf balls.
Why Used Golf Balls vs New?
The answer is pretty simple — there isn’t much of a difference in performance, but there’s a huge difference in price.
Older golf balls were made differently, so when they spent time in water or tougher conditions, they definitely lost some of their performance. Newer golf balls, however, consist of a solid core and better materials all around.
There’s just no reason to pay 50% more for a golf ball that performs almost identically.
Mike Bailey (@accidentlgolfer), a Senior Staff Writer over at GolfAdvisor.com, did an helpful write-up on pre-owned golf balls back in 2014. In the article, he spoke with Andrew Linn of LostGolfBalls.com, the largest online retailer of used golf balls. Some key takeaways:
- At LostGolfBalls’ facility, golf balls are sorted and rated based on their condition.
- AAAAA balls are balls in the best condition. They look and play as if they were new.
- The next level down is AAAA. These balls have minor blemishes, but they basically play as if they were new.
- The rating system goes all the way to AA.
- Balls in poor condition are ultimately disposed of.
New vs Used Golf Balls Test Results
Since their business model is centered around selling used golf balls, LostGolfBalls made arrangements for independent testing to determine whether or not used golf balls are really up to par (pun intended). You can see full details of their study here, but I know that most of you like pictures more than words, so feel free to cut to the chase by looking at the graphics below.
Is the data conclusive? LostGolfBalls would say so. They post three days worth of testing on their website with each day split into two parts. That leaves you with six data-rich studies for your inner-nerd and some good food for thought next time someone refuses to play with used golf balls.
That being said, there are some guidelines you should consider when purchasing or reclaiming golf balls for your own use.
Used Golf Ball Dos and Don’ts
When purchasing reconditioned golf balls:
- DO find a reputable reconditioning company. I’ve included a decent list below.
- DO consider brands other than Titleist Pro V1. We all know the Titleist Pro V1 are great golf balls, but there are many reconditioned options at a decent price. Find a ball that works for you.
When reclaiming golf balls for your own use:
- DO NOT reuse golf balls that spent time in salt water. The salt does bad things to the finish of the ball.
- DO NOT reuse golf balls with significant scuffs and scratches. These marks will obviously influence performance.
- DO NOT play with multiple brands of used golf balls during your round. Consistency helps, so try to stick with the same brand for the duration of your round.
A Few Places to Buy Used Golf Balls Online
- From Team Titleist (worth noting – the Pro V1 are one of the best golf balls on the planet, but also part of Titleist’s revenue stream)
We would not recommend recycled Titleist golf balls for anyone’s game – regardless of a person’s ability. Arguably, the consistency of a new, pristine golf ball is more beneficial to a higher handicap as it provides a better opportunity to shoot lower scores. If you are a golfer with mid to high handicap who plays with whatever golf ball you find in the pond or in your bag, you are not allowing yourself to shoot the best score possible.
- Old Golf Digest Article (worth noting – the study was conducted many years ago. Golf balls from the 90s utilized different materials than golf balls today.)
On a Lighter Note…
Check out this story about Wes Stanfield. He spends his time diving with crocodiles and snapping turtles to fuel the used golf ball marketplace. If you’re struggling to find a job you love, this could be it.
Your Thoughts on Used Golf Balls vs New Golf Balls
Visit some of the popular golf forums and you’ll see that this discussion is recurring. What’s your take on new vs used debate? Any testing or evidence to back it up?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.