When you’re an avid golfer, it can be a costly investment to purchase golf balls if you go through them a little too quickly. Do you suspect you’re not taking proper care of them to maximize their lifespan? Do they have a lifespan, or shelf life?
Golf balls have a shelf life between 5-10 years and an average lifespan while being used of about 3-7 years. The life of a golf ball will depend on how they are stored, how hard you play, how often you play, and what kind of ball you use.
In this article, we’ll go over the lifespan and shelf life of golf balls, the factors that affect their lifespans, how to properly store them, and a factor to their lifespan you might not have considered before.
Table of Contents
How Long to Golf Balls Last on the Shelf?
When golf balls are stored and not in use, their average shelf life tends to be between 5-10 years, so long as they are stored properly, which we will get to later. Golf balls are usually made with rubber inside, which will deteriorate because it will often be stored in a place with some humidity, light, and air, inevitably.
Titleist, Calloway, and Bridgestone balls seem to have the reputation of having very long shelf lives, and according to Titleist researchers, their own balls can last 5-15 years in proper storage conditions.
What is the Average Lifespan of a Golf Ball?
What about the balls that are regularly used? Some sources will say the average lifespan of a golf ball is 1,000 shots or 1 round of golf. Since we don’t use just one ball while golfing, a ball will usually have a lifespan of 3-4 years. Other sources say golf balls were made to last 7 18-hole rounds, making them usually last between 5-7 years. The difference in durability can have many factors, but the culprit may be based heavily on what kind of ball you’re using:
- 1-piece golf ball
- 2-piece golf ball
- 3-piece golf ball
- 4-piece golf ball
- 5-piece golf ball
- 6-piece golf ball
As their names suggest, a golf ball can be constructed in 1-6 pieces. The 1-piece golf ball will have the most basic construction as a solid plastic ball will the famous dimpled texture. The 2-6 piece golf balls will add more complexity with their shells varying between a firm ionomer substance or a softer urethane material.
- A 2-piece has a shell and a rubber core within,
- A 3-piece has the shell, the rubber inner layer, and a solid or liquid core,
- A 4-piece has the shell, 2-3 rubber layers around the core, and then the usually solid rubber center,
- A 5-piece has all the pieces of a 4-piece and an additional rubber layer
- And the 6-piece has a three-layered core, two layers of gradually firmer rubber, and the shell.
Get it? These layers affect compression in order to influence a ball’s speed, spin, and distance, but it also influences its durability. These extra layers add to the lifespan of a golf ball, preventing them from “going bad” by protecting the core. Now you just have to find out how many layers your golf ball has. It should be pointed out that you don’t have to go out and get a 6-piece ball set. The 5 and 6-piece balls are really made for the tournament players who can swing the ball at over 110mph who therefore need balls with more layers.
How to Tell if a Golf Ball is Still Good
When the expected expiration date starts to approach, you might be wondering how you can make sure your golf balls are still good for you to use.
There are 5 ways to tell if a golf ball is still good:
- Bounce it
- Listen to it
- Hit it
- Float it
- Look at it
What do these mean exactly? Well, you need to bounce it to see if the golf ball’s bounce height is lower than it used to be. When you listen to it, you’re hitting the ball with a driver to see if you can still hear that sharp sound on impact. You also want to hit the ball to see if it flies as far as it used to if you can remember the farthest distance your brand of balls has gone.
When you float the ball, you’re putting it in a bowl or cup of saltwater, which has a higher buoyancy level, and if the ball floats it will let you know the inner layers within the ball is still intact and the air inside hasn’t caused bubbles to form in between. Finally, the last test is to simply look at it to see if the ball is slashed open or scuffed, which would drastically ruin a ball’s travel distance and trajectory because of the imperfect airflow.
So when it comes to “when do golf balls need to be replaced?” When a ball fails to pass any of the 5 tests above, that would be the time to replace it.
How to Store Golf Balls
Golf balls don’t care for extreme weather. Not too long ago, golfers used to store their golf balls in their freezer because a rumor circulated that it would preserve them longer. All that managed to accomplish was to make the rubber within brittle, reduce their travel distance, and effectively reduce their lifespans.
While warmer temperatures do positively affect a golf ball’s travel distance and spin, golf balls don’t like extreme heat either. This is especially true for golf balls with the harder ionomer shell mentioned earlier. High temperatures will start melting the plastic outer layer and deform the dimple shapes, affecting the aerodynamics of the ball heavily. If you are bringing balls out of freezing temperatures, let them warm up slowly on their own.
You should also be sure your golf balls are kept in a dry place. Golf balls, in spite of their shells, will still absorb water if they are left too long (another reason why storing them in the freezer is a bad idea). If water gets inside, the ball can become waterlogged, increasing its mass and reducing its distance, and severely compromising its compression and resilience because it ruins the ball’s elasticity.
Needless to say, golf balls should not be stored in a freezer, oven, or water bottle. Instead, store your golf balls at room temperature, or 70-80 degrees. When not in use, this should keep your golf balls in good condition for 10 years, or at the very least 5 years.
What are the Factors that Affect a Golf Ball’s Lifespan?
So all the factors that seem to affect the life of your golf balls are:
- Extreme heat
- Extreme cold
- Frequency of use
- Number of layers when produced
This means that the life of your golf balls will depend on your geographic location, the depth of the cold during the winter, the height of the heat during the summer, and the average humidity in the air. Golf courses are also likely to have a higher humidity than in your backyard because of the maintenance a well-kept green requires.
Golf balls are complex little forms of intricate engineering and almost require the kind of care you would give your new car. So long as you store your golf balls properly, check them routinely, and get a brand with the most layers within your means, you should be able to enjoy a consistent performance from them for a long time.