Do Golf Balls Go Bad? (Yes, They Do!)

Every avid golfer has stumbled upon a forgotten sleeve stuffed in the depths of their golf bag at some point or found a ball at the edge of a pond.

But how do these golf balls compare to a new golf ball?

Do they perform closely, or is there a clear-cut winner?

do golf balls go bad

But how can you determine if a golf ball has genuinely gone bad? Do they have a functional lifespan? What factors impact their longevity?

Valid questions, as losing precious yards off the tee or surrendering any control around the greens quickly nullifies their played golf value.

In my article, “Do golf balls go bad?”, I’ll look at how a modern golf ball performs against those older golf balls that you might find in your closet or deep in the woods of your favorite golf course.

Do golf balls have a shelf life?

When looking at golf ball longevity, golf balls have a functional shelf life spanning a few key areas.

First, the covers and coatings will deteriorate over time, gradually losing their shear resistance and cracking after extended use.

Second, golf balls gradually lose compression and resilience as the materials break down internally over years of exposure to temperature fluctuations, moisture, and oxygen. This affects their launch conditions and flight performance.

Generally, a premium-grade golf ball, such as a Callaway Chrome Soft, appropriately stored in a climate-controlled environment can maintain peak quality and consistency for up to 5 years.

Mass market balls may show a decline in performance in as little as two years. So check your golf balls for signs of cover wear, check the manufactured date, and don’t be afraid to test those older balls next to brand-new models in the range.

If yardage, spin rates, or accuracy falls off noticeably, it likely signifies that your golf balls have passed their reliable shelf life.

How can you tell if a golf ball is still good?

There are a few key ways to determine if a golf ball is still in playable, quality condition.

First, inspect the cover closely. Ensure no cuts, deep scuffs, or other signs of significant wear. The cover protects the critical inner layers, so it needs to remain largely intact.

Next, examine the ball for any discoloration or signs of damage from UV rays. Excessive heat and prolonged sun exposure can degrade the materials due to harmful UV rays. Whiteness and color vibrancy indicate the ball likely still has significant resilience.

Perform a simple bounce test by dropping the new ball from shoulder height onto a firm sidewalk or wood floor. It should bounce back to about 70-80% of the height you dropped it from. Dead balls with poor compression won’t rebound much.

You can also do a water test by placing the ball in a bucket of water. Better quality modern balls will generally sink due to the titanium or other metals used in their cores. If it floats, it signals cheaper construction that will show performance deficits.

Finally, try hitting the golf ball next to the same ball with a new premium ball you know carries well. This head-to-head test will determine if the ball still provides good speed, distance, and accuracy you expect from a fresh sleeve off the shelf.

Following these guidelines will verify if that dusty sleeve has good life left or belongs in the shag bag. Proper storage helps balls maintain quality and performance for future rounds as well.

Are 25-year-old golf balls still good?

Using 25-year-old golf balls at this stage will provide disappointing performance and durability compared to modern models.

The critical factor is that even adequately stored golf balls gradually lose compression and resilience as the materials degrade. Twenty-five years of exposure to temperature changes, moisture, and oxygen leave the ball susceptible to cracking while robbing it of critical bounce.

The covers and coatings similarly erode, undermining the layers protecting the compressed core.

Additionally, aerodynamics and dimple designs have advanced considerably over the last 25 years to promote longer distances with better consistency.

So, while an ancient ball from the back of your garage may get you through a casual backyard chipping contest, relying on decades-old balls for actual rounds is ill-advised.

The worn covers will cut open easily, and the tired cores cannot deliver the launch conditions, control, or stopping power expected from a quality ball once on the course.

Investing in the latest models ensures optimal flight traits, durability, and performance. So leave those relics from the 90s in the shag bag and bring a fresh sleeve that suits the modern game.

How can you tell how old a golf ball is?

Determining the approximate age of a golf ball is possible by leveraging a few historical clues. The internet can quickly provide a production year and tell you when most golf balls have been created.

Barring a date stamp, look closely at the specific model name and brand on the ball. Researching old product launches and sponsorship deals can provide context on when golf balls first hit the market.

For example, retro Nike One golf balls with Tiger Woods insignia signal the pre-2016 timeframe before Nike exited the golf equipment business. Noting professional tour logos since changed or discontinued also records past endorsement partnerships.

Finally, the general wear and tear hints at vintage as well – balls featuring badly worn covers, noticeable cracking, or heavy scuffs have inherently endured plenty of play over multiple seasons.

Layering all these visual details and marker pieces together, a likely age range within a season or two.

Knowing exactly how many years have passed helps determine if a found sleeve still delivers the quality and consistency desired or mainly holds nostalgic value for casual backyard use at this stage.

What happens to old golf balls?

Golf balls degraded past the point of regular competitive play still offer utility in various secondary roles before their total life cycle concludes. Slightly scuffed yet functionally intact models commonly get sold at deep bulk discounts to driving ranges.

Repurposed as range balls, they soak up high volume beating after beating while minimizing costs for facilities and patrons needing to hit shot after shot without concern over the perfect condition.

Additionally, worn golf balls may enjoy craft reuse courtesy of hobbyists who cut open the outer layers to transform the durable spherical cores into holiday ornaments and home decor.

Even fully exhausted non-playable golf ball components ultimately avoid landfills through proper recycling channels instead. Their skins can be ground into bounce-enhancing material mixed with playground turf and athletic track surfacing.

Of course, most seasoned players “retire” old balls slowly dropping in compression right to the shag bag for casual games, chipping contests, and backyard water shots rather than tournament play.

So, while the reign of a prime golf ball has its limits on playing the course, creative second acts keep these trust spheres in motion before completing the cycle.

Why is proper golf ball storage important?

Properly storing golf balls helps maintain performance and longevity by reducing unnecessary wear and material degradation over time. Ideal storage minimizes exposure to the following elements:

Heat can negatively impact urethane covers and cause premature cracking as the materials expand and contract. Storing balls in a climate and temperature-controlled environment maximizes durability. Avoid leaving new golf balls alone in a hot car trunk for extended periods.

Moisture also reduces shelf life severely through corrosion and surface damage. Wet storage containers or bags allow moisture build-up and absorption within the ball. Stick to dry storage containers instead.

Oxygen oxidation accelerates the breakdown of chemicals and materials inside the ball. Storing balls in sealed, airtight containers helps preserve interior resilience by limiting airflow exposure.

Sunlight and UV radiation degrade new covers through photo-oxidation without proper protection. Leave balls uncovered near windows, and the compounds will show noticeable yellowing.

What do extreme temperatures do to golf balls?

Following smart storage best practices ensures golf balls maintain near-new quality and performance for longer.

Given typical hot car trunk and damp bag conditions, improperly stored balls often suffer noticeable compression and flight trait declines in mere months rather than multiple seasons.

So invest in proper containers and conditions to gain full value from your golf ball investment.

Are used golf balls worth the savings?

No, used golf balls are fine for practice.

But the loss of distance, no matter your swing speed, makes these used balls a terrible investment compared to a brand-new ball.

Used balls are okay for practicing on the chipping green and for range use at most golf courses.

How do used golf balls compare to modern golf balls?

Used golf balls go bad quickly when compared to new golf balls.

A dozen balls fresh from the box offer more distance and high spin, plus take full advantage of new golfing equipment, while used balls lose performance if left out in the elements.

A new golf ball’s performance offers the best chance for professional golfers to post a low score for an entire round. Unused golf balls are a must for most golfers, especially amateurs, if you are playing in a tournament or other competitive event.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, golf balls have a functional lifespan driven by a gradual decline across crucial areas. The protective outer covers and energetic inner materials face relentless enemies, including temperature extremes, moisture, sunlight, and oxidation, slowly inflicting damage.

Generally, a properly stored, premium-grade golf ball retains quality for around five years before cover deterioration, compression loss, and flight performance issues arise. Mid-grade balls may only last 2-3 years reliably.

Conduct compression tests against new models and frequently examine how long golf balls are still in use for signs of wear while also comparing carry distance performance head-to-head.

If cracked covers, excessive scuffs, discoloration, reduced bounce, or appreciably shorter flights signal age issues, it is best to retire those sleeves to casual backyard use only.

Investing in fresh stock ensures you play every competitive round with golf balls optimized to manufacture date standards, delivering complete confidence in their quality while avoiding penalty strokes linked to worn-out old models sailing out of bounds.