Do Golf Balls Ever Go Bad? (Plus How Often to Replace Yours)
Written by Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years. Current Handicap: 8

Updated on January 24, 2024

When you drop $50 on a box of premium Titleist Pro V1s, you pray and hope they will last forever.

Unfortunately, golf balls do go bad. Sometimes you’ll notice that your ball will stop flying or spinning consistently. That’s one of the telltale signs that it’s time to replace your ball. 


How to Tell If Your Golf Balls Have Gone Bad

The reality is that you will likely lose a golf ball before you notice wear and tear. However, if you can hold on to the same ball for more than one round, this list helps you identify when to toss it out.

Scuffing And Degradation

You can detect visible damage on the surface of your ball with ease. First, check for scratches and scuffs on the surface. These reduce your grooves ability to grip the ball and produce optimal ball speed and spin.

Golf ball covers are predominantly crafted from urethane and surlyn. Urethane is a softer cover typically applied to premium golf balls. However, these covers scuff easily if they strike a cart path or bunker.

Surlyn covers alone boast superior durability. That picture changes when ionomer polymers partner with urethane. Entry-level 3-piece construction golf balls often contain solid rubber cores, urethane outer casing, and surlyn cover. These three features weaken the surlyn and cause it to be as susceptible to scuffs as urethane.

A 2005 report by Golf Digest suggested that a minor scuff could reduce your distance by approximately 6-yards.

When this occurs, it leads to the reduced aerodynamics of your ball. That causes it to fly inconsistently, increase drag and reduce carry distance.

In addition, if you have a high spinning product that releases more than usual, the ball cover may no longer produce optimal spring and compression.


The bounce of your ball impacts your roll on longer shots and stopping power on short strikes. Place your old golf ball in one hand and a new one in the other. The make of the new ball must be the same as the old one to compare apples with apples.

Then drop them onto a flat hard surface to see how they bounce. If the bounce is consistent with both, then your used dimples are still on point in this department, and you can put your new golf balls back into the storage compartment.


Balance impacts aerodynamics and results in increased drag and poor flight. This leads to a lack of carry distance. If your ball is sufficiently balanced, it will travel consistently and produce optimal yards on the fly.

I don’t suggest conducting this test on the golf course because it requires water and Epsom salts. Bryson DeChambeau’s coach Mike Schy demonstrates how to carry out this test. 

Mix the salts into the water and place the ball in the liquid. Your ball should float below the surface line of the water, with the lighter side of the ball visible from the top. If your used balls do this, then their balance is in order.

Should the balls sink to the bottom, or the heavy side is on top, it is time to turf the old-timer. Grab one of your unused golf balls and tee it up.


If your ball is struggling to get airborne or it does not fly consistently, you may need to play a new ball. When this happens, your ball is unbalanced, or outer layer dimples hamper its ability to fly long and maximize your long irons and driving distance.


It may be time for modern golf balls when you notice your total distance dropping for no reason. A scuff alone can cause you to lose an average of 6-yards on each shot. Before you toss away your ball, make sure that it is the ball and not your inconsistent swing speeds or mechanics.


Things That Cause Your Golf Balls to Lose Performance

Water On The Clubface

A wet clubface reduces friction with your golf ball and causes your grooves to cut into the ball instead of gripping it. That leads to abrasions on the ball and permanent damage over a period of time.


If you spend a significant amount of time in the sand, your ball will start to scuff, especially if it has a urethane cover.

Hard And Dry Ground

When your ball strikes a cart path or a hard, dry place, it can scuff the cover and reduce its shelf life. Avoid bouncing your golf balls on hard surfaces for no reason. 


Trees, like other hard surfaces, can inflict scratches on your ball. 

Normal Wear And Tear

Those who are fortunate enough to have the same ball for several 18-hole rounds will ultimately need to toss it. Eventually, the ball will wear and tear without you causing damage.

Heat Damage

Heat damage is a rarer form of golf ball destruction, but it is still one to watch out for. If your golf ball is exposed to temperatures above 170-degrees Fahrenheit, it can cause the polymer material to melt.

Avoid this by ensuring that your storage unit is cool and dry and will not cause your balls to flair up.


How to Prolong The Life of Your Golf Balls

Wipe Your Clubface

A simple approach to boosting the lifespan of your golf balls is to wipe your clubface before every shot. Ensure you have a towel attached to your golf bag at the start of every round to rid your face of moisture.

Clean Your Ball 

A golfers ball picks up grass, mud, and general dirt during your round. If you do not wipe it off, it is further ingrained into the ball with every shot you hit. Eventually, the compressed dirt will scuff the soft cover, impacting launch, flight, and distance. So make sure to clean your golf balls regularly.

Do Not Bounce On Hard Surfaces

As tempting as it is to bounce your golf balls wherever you can, I advise you to refrain from doing so on hard surfaces. Do not throw your new golf balls and throw them onto concrete for fun. That will quickly scuff your ball and reduce its lifespan.

Hit Straighter

I know my request is outrageous, but better accuracy will help you avoid the sand traps, cart paths, and other hard, rough surfaces. Spend time at the range working on your aim and ball striking to improve your results. More time spent on the fairway equals less possible damage to your ball.


How Often You Should Replace Your Balls

An article by Golfweek suggests that a golf ball will hold its shape and performance for 7 complete 18-hole rounds. That is if you do not scuff or misconfigure your ball.

The truth is, very few average golfers will hold onto one ball for such a long period. In fact, a study by Golf Magazine found that casual golfers lose an average of 1.3 golf balls per round.


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Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years. Current Handicap: 8