How long should you use a golf ball for?

By Ian Hardie
NZPGA Professional

Having been involved in the golf industry in one way or another for most of the last 30 plus years, I’ve had plenty of time to figure out some of the most common things that golfers want to know.

The question of just how long you should use a golf ball is one of those common things that almost all golfers think about every now and then, but over the years I’ve observed a large variation in the logic that each golfer uses to decide when it should be done.

I have to admit that for most of the time I have played the game, I had never considered that question as, like it is for most other golfers, the decision was always a fairly easy one.

Either, the golf ball I had was played until it was lost (which happened a lot in my early years) or it was used until I decided that the cover and the printing on the golf ball had started to look a bit rough or worn.

Like most golfers, I didn’t really have any scientific basis to my judgement but as it’s something that has been asked of me many times over the years, I have been doing some research into this question by going back through my collection of golf books, digging around on the internet and asking a few golf ball companies what their opinions are, which has been interesting to say the least.

Basically, most golf balls can perform well for a lot more games than most of us use them for, probably two to four times as long.

Which would explain why it was difficult to find a conclusive answer from most of the golf ball companies, who only make money when you buy and use a new golf ball.

Anyway, apparently, these days the cores of most of the golf balls are designed to withstand at least 100 strikes at 125 miles per hour before cracking.

That’s seven rounds of hitting it harder than Bubba Watson with a driver, if you were wondering!

Most golfers I have talked to generally use a ball for two to three rounds of competitive use before the cover scuffs enough and the printing starts to come off, which is probably less than a quarter of its useful life.

According to some information I found, these minor scuffs or loss of printing that trigger most golfers to put a new golf ball in play, won’t affect performance.

“As long as the cover is relatively smooth, maybe a little paint missing, you’re fine to play it,” said an unnamed source from a golf ball company.

They then went on to say that their own company testing showed that a serious scuff could cost you six yards on a tee shot, which is only a 2% drop in performance if you hit a 300 yard drive!

Hardly worth worrying about is it?

Whichever way you slice it, all the golf balls available now are a far cry from what I first used as a young junior golfer.

The Dunlop 65 Golf Ball

A ball that had a rubber sphere as its core, with rubber band type winding around it and a soft cover, which I assume was a rubber of some sort also, that was very easy to cut.

I never realised until researching for this article that it was named in honour of Henry Cotton after he won his first British Open in 1934 at Royal St. George’s, and in doing so he shot a 65 in his second round, a feat that was commemorated by the “Dunlop 65” golf ball.

It had nothing to do with being made in 1965 as most golfers thought was the case!

Thinking back to those old golf balls, it’s amazing how things have changed dramatically over the years, the balls are now considerably more durable, as well as going a lot further than the old Dunlop 65 used to.

The ones I use currently are actually made of five layers of technologically advanced polymers and other materials able to withstand mishits without cutting or deforming.

So, after a bit of research I’ve decided that the answer to this question is twofold.

In terms of the actual mechanics, I would estimate that a golf ball can be used by most golfers with very little loss of performance for at least 10 to 20 rounds.

Possibly even a lot more than that, if you don’t hit it as hard as Bubba Watson.

But the real reason most of us change them sooner than that is driven by how it looks cosmetically.

Due to the golf ball hitting all sorts of things during a round (like trees), damage from the grooves of our clubs and the effects of the sand in bunkers, the covers and the printing get scuffed and the ball starts to look old after a couple of rounds. As good golf is fuelled by confidence, most of us change the ball at that point, so we can be confident that the golf ball will perform for us.

How long should you use a golf ball for?

It’s up to you these days.

Play well.