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Can Golf Balls Go Bad?

rusty golf ball
rusty golf ball

Golf balls are one of the most important pieces of equipment in golf. In fact, a golf balls is the one single thing that directly goes into the golf hole, makes contact with the ground meaningfully, and travels high up in the air.

Since golf balls are so important to your performance and your score, the question poses itself can golf balls go bad? If golf balls can go bad, you would obviously want to know when, and how to avoid bad golf balls.

Can Golf Balls Go Bad?

Yes, golf balls can go bad if they are kept too long in extreme temperatures, if they scratch or crack upon impact, or if they become waterlogged. These three elements will negatively impact golf ball performance, including carry distance, spin and the weight distribution of the ball.

What Can Make Golf Balls Go Bad?

Below are explanations of the main factors that make golf balls go bad.

Extreme Temperatures

Golf balls are designed to compress every time they are hit by a golf club, and to elastically decompress quickly after, which increases their carry distance dramatically.

A golf ball deformed by extreme temperatures (either too cold or too warm) will no longer be able to compress in the intended way, since it will have lost its original shape permanently.

Scratches & Cracks

Whenever you hit a golf ball with your club, or the ball hits an object, such as a wall, a rock, a tree, or something else, the ball risks some damage.

Every time you hit a hard object with your golf ball, the impact can cause dents, scratches, cracks or fissures in your golf ball. Even if your golf ball seems fine after inspection, it can have some micro-fissures that can impact golf ball performance.

The more scratches, cracks & fissures a golf ball has, the more there is a negative effect on carry distance and spin. Imperfections on a golf ball change how it reacts to being hit, to wind, and to the ground, making the ball more unpredictable and less responsive.


Another potential issue that drags golf ball performance down is waterlogging. Waterlogging occurs when water enters golf balls through small cracks & fissures on its surface.

Waterlogging makes golf balls heavier, and ruins their ability to compress and travel a far carry distance. If you would like to know more about waterlogged golf balls, read our article : Can Golf Balls Be Waterlogged?.

To know if your golf balls are waterlogged, you can try the saltwater bucket test:

Step 1: Fill a bucket with water and salt. You will have a mixture of saltwater.
Step 2: Dump your golf balls into the saltwater.
Step 3: Observe the behavior of the golf balls.

If the golf balls sink, they are waterlogged. We can tell this because the density of the water inside the golf ball, along with the densities of the metal and other materials of the golf ball, are denser than saltwater. The densest items sink in less dense liquids.

If the golf balls float, then you know that they are not yet waterlogged. The stock golf balls are less dense than saltwater, so they float. All golf balls would sink in normal water, but saltwater has salt in it that makes it denser than non-waterlogged golf balls.
Step 4: Remove and dry the golf balls, organizing them by whether they are waterlogged or not.

3 Tips To Avoid Damaging your Golf Balls

1. Store your balls in temperature-controlled environments

Keep your balls in an environment with an ambient temperature.

Your golf balls can last a very long time, years and years, provided that you store them indoors, in a temperature-controlled area, away from extremely hot or cold temperatures.

2. Avoid hitting your balls against hard surfaces

As discussed earlier in the article, hitting your golf balls against hard surfaces, such as rocks, is basically asking for cracks, scratches, and fissures in your golf balls.

To avoid damaging your golf balls, aim away from hard surfaces and practice your accuracy in training.

Another great tip is to aim with an adjusted aim. This means that you aim as you normally would, then adjust your aim to account for your tendencies to miss (towards the left or towards the right).

By adjusting your aim against the left-right direction you tend to miss, you reduce your chances of hitting obstacles you should not.

Finally, if you are practicing your golf shots against something like a wall, you should think of investing in a net. A net will catch and dampen the impact of your practice shots, on top of being safer.

A great net to buy is the Hit Run Steal Golf Hitting Net.

The Hit Run Steal Golf Hitting Net features a huge 10×7 feet surface to hit, and is perfect to catch golf balls from any golfer.

3. Clean your golf balls after every shot

Dirty, mud, and other debris attached to your golf ball will negatively impact golf ball performance. All this attached gunk will change the angle at which your golf club hits the ball, giving you unpredictable performance.

Furthermore, when you have dirt and mud attached to your ball, it ruins the weight distribution of the ball, on top of making it heavier. These elements will result in inferior carry distance and a more turbulent, unpredictable ball path.

Therefore, you should wipe your golf ball with a rag before taking every shot. The importance of this habit cannot be understated, especially in wet and rainy weather.

Will a Wet Golf Club Head Damage my Golf Balls?

Contrary to popular belief, having a wet golf club face will not damage your balls more quickly. It will, however, noticeably reduce the spin you can give the ball.

A wet club face means there will be less friction with the golf ball. To maximize the damage to a golf ball, the club face would need to have as little friction as possible so as to “rip” material and paint off the golf ball.

Destructively removing material from the golf ball is harder with a wet club that has less friction with the ball.

When Should You Replace Your Golf Balls?

One of the ways to know when to replace your golf balls is to use the Pinky Rule:

Pinky Rule: If the total amount of paint scratched off of your golf ball through normal usage is more than the surface of the last section of your pinky, you need to change balls.

Furthermore, if you used the same ball for 10 rounds of 18-hole golf (180 holes), it is time to change golf balls. Golf balls will start to experience a drop off in performance after about 7 or 8 rounds of golf.

You should also remember that practice shots count against a golf ball’s durability as well. If you commonly shoot golf balls at a personal driving range, remember that every hit brings your balls closer to their end. Do not expect great performance from balls you have used a lot.

Finally, you can perform the bounce test to know if your golf balls are still good. To perform this test, simply drop a brand new golf ball next to a used ball. Compare the bounces; they should be of similar height. If the bounces are very far off, it is time to replace the used golf ball.


There you go! After reading this article, you have learned whether golf balls can go bad, what makes golf balls go bad, 3 tips for avoiding golf ball damage, and when you should replace your golf balls.

Take this knowledge to heart to avoid bad equipment getting in the way of you lowering your handicap and winning golf tournaments! Good luck!

How many golf balls do you purchase every year? How long do you reuse your golf balls? Let us know in the comments down below!

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