How Do Used Golf Balls Perform vs New Golf Balls?

How Do Used Golf Balls Perform vs New Golf Balls?

There’s just something about a new golf ball. A new ball is not scuffed or scratched or covered with any dirt, the little ball has zero battle damage from previous games or long hours of practice that came before. That shiny, dimpled surface emblazoned with the name of your brand of choice gives the impression that it is in the best condition to showcase your skills.

But, is it? Do used golf balls perform any worse than new ones? Not necessarily. It’s instinctive to expect that anything subjected to the sort of punishment these golf balls endure like hitting a tree at one hundred miles per hour will become bruised and battered fast. To understand why this gut feeling is wrong, we have to know how the balls are constructed.

The Types of Golf Balls Available on the Market

There are several types of golf balls, designated by the number of separate pieces used to construct them. Their durability and performance vary accordingly.

One-Piece Golf Balls

These balls are made of a single material, called surlyn, this is the material of choice for golf ball covers intended for the budget end for amateur golfers, but one-piece balls are a solid piece of this material.

It is so durable that normal play isn’t going to scuff or cut the ball. 

On the other hand, it provides little in terms of spin or feel. One-piece balls are basically relegated to being used for the sole purpose of driving ranges and mini-golfing facilities, and in that capacity will perform just as well on day one as on day one thousand. 

These gold balls are not really to be used on a golf course, but are great when you are whacking them through a windmill or clowns’ mouth.

Two-Piece Balls to Five-Piece Golf Balls

The most common golf ball for a beginner to start playing golf with is the two-piece golf ball, it incorporates a rubber core encased in a cover of surlyn or urethane.

Urethane covers are less durable, but afford greater ball control. Even with the reduced durability, it would take an extreme amount of punishment and regular play, is unlikely to cause severe scuffing or damage, cutting or deformation, which are the only sorts of damage that measurably impact performance for a golf ball.

The different materials that make up the cores and inner layers of balls with more than two pieces vary significantly.

If you are looking for a golf ball that helps with a slice, then check out this article Best Golf Ball to Cure a Slice or a Hook.

However, it is the cover that determines whether a ball is new or used, as the internal pieces are both resilient and protected. If a ball is damaged such that the interior is exposed at all, it is unsuitable for play and should be disposed of.

Golf balls are relatively inexpensive to buy, so new balls maybe not the latest four or five-piece golf balls, but some other brand, we also have new brands that are entering the market place with great technology in their golf balls, but in comparison are half the price of the top brands.

But if you have bought a new, nearly new or an older golf ball, how many of these golf balls have you lost to a water hazard?

Best New Budget Golf Balls

How many balls have you lost to the trees and rough?

How often do you golf, once a week, two or even three times a week? All of these factors compound to making your Golf expenses go a little bit higher than you might have expected them too. 

This may leave you looking for an alternative more inexpensive golf ball, leading you to the decision to buy refinished golf balls or other used lake balls.

What’s the difference between new golf balls and refinished?

Which one is better? Is it worth buying all-new or can you be competitive with used balls?

Check out what Rick Shiels thinks of New Vs Refurbished Golf Balls

What is a Refinished Golf Ball?

Used golf balls are perceived to be worse than they are if you think about it, as soon as a ball is hit once it becomes a used ball.

These along with all the other golf balls that are lost and collected by contracted golf ball divers or finders.  Who go into the lakes, ponds and other water hazards around golf courses, before they are then sent off to be recycled, and then sold as used golf balls.

Please see our article on Can You Make Money From Collecting Used Golf Balls and Selling Them?

Best Refinished and Lake Balls

The Difference Between New and Old Golf Balls

The real question in all of this is, can you notice a notable difference between the refurbished golf balls and new balls?

Will trying to save some money cost you the golfer shots on your golf game?

There has been quite a bit of research done on this by sporting companies, with a vested interest in the idea.

Their research tends to show that there is no real difference between new and old balls, the only differences being very small and is almost impossible to tell from the ball flight.
One of the more notable changes once a ball has been refurbished is a harder clacking sound to the exterior when struck, but no differences in the playability of the ball. From my experience, I would prefer the manufacturer finished golf balls everyday of the week, and if you are buying used golf ball over new it would be my preference to purchase Grade A Lake balls or second chance. I just do not like the look of the new golf balls, I play a lot of the more premium balls and always seems to back to the Titleist Pro V1 or AVX for some reason and the refinished golf balls I have seen are pretty awful to be honest, but you get some and let me know what you think?

Best Premium Golf Balls

Is It Worth Buying New Golf Balls?

With no real change in the effect of the ball on your game, the answer to this question comes down to your preference and personal choice. 

For a golfer the look and feel of a brand-new premium golf ball, is unmatched. Hearing that satisfying thwack, seeing it soar through the air with the sun glinting off of its exterior finish after you have launched it towards the green.

These things usually mean quite a bit to the avid golfer. 

However, looking at it economically there seems to be no reason to pay for premium priced golf balls when the used golf ball delivers the same outcome to your game.
So, if you just love the premium look then buy them, and if you just love playing for fun or just starting out, then used balls will do you just fine.

Another point I would like to highlight is what the golf game means on that day, if I am just having a friendly knock with a few mates then who cares if it is a new or a used golf ball. If however you are playing a premium course, or playing in a club competition then I would have to use a new golf ball.

Over the past thirty years I have been playing golf, I have used everything from lake balls to found balls to refinished golf balls, and then to buying premium.  Golf is the game I love and I spend money on it, I buy new balls and when they are looking a little old I will put them in my practice bag. This means I am also practicing with the golf balls I enjoy playing with, so I can keep the consistency from practice range to golf course.

So, let us get back to the golf balls and what can affect them and damage a golf ball.

Damage Golf Balls

What Damages Golf Balls?

While “normal play” supposedly does no damage to golf balls, what that means to each player is different.

If a golf ball is constantly being hit into bunkers for instance, the sand and the club face can be quite abrasive and can cut up the golf ball.

Even in general play if you ‘thin’ a golf ball, which is hitting it a little high on the ball, so hitting the body of the ball with the blade of the iron, this can scuff or cut the golf ball. 

However, the usual wear is just scraping off the paint that is only a cosmetic issue, not a performance concern for the golf ball so the ball should perform perfectly.

Do Hard Abrasive Surfaces Damage Golf Balls?

Balls hitting rocks or paths can be quite damaging enough to deteriorate away the dimples on the cover of the golf ball, that can have an immediate detrimental effect on golf balls performance. 

Balls hidden in the grass that get caught up in a mower are also likely to be split or otherwise mangled beyond use.  

These are not uncommon occurrences, but such balls are not so much used as they are abused. Avoiding mistreatment of your balls goes a long way towards keeping them performing properly.

Best Mid-Range Golf Balls

Do High Temperatures Damage Golf Balls

At very high temperatures, surlyn and urethane will begin to deform. This isn’t a danger during play, as you’re unlikely to be out swinging a club around if the thermometer reads beyond normal temperatures.

However, if you have your golf balls stored in a location prone to get very hot, such as a car boot or trunk or anywhere it can get very hot like a small shed, they can begin to melt at very high temperatures.

We’ve covered what the loss of dimples can do, and if the shape of the ball is warped the aerodynamics will be completely ruined.

Without subjecting them to extreme conditions, golf balls continue to perform as good as new for years.

Do your best to avoid the hazards we’ve covered, and you can rely on the old adage: “If it looks playable, it probably is.”


From my experience it is a really nice feeling to be opening up a fresh box of golf balls, and teeing up a brand new ball.  

The golf ball does not know how it will perform and neither do you, but it could be the ball that gets a birdie, or an eagle or maybe a hole in one.

It could be the golf ball to break par on a golf course. It could be the ball that fly’s through someone’s window.

It is like hopes and dreams, does a used golf ball perform any different, absolutely not, a used golf ball will work just as well as a new one and sometimes can bring the joy I mentioned to others, I have friends who would hit a pinnacle into the trees and come out with two nearly brand new Titleist Pro V1’s. The smile on their face tells you everything.

So if you use new, old, refinished, premium or found.  Just go and play and enjoy a good game of golf.