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The Truth About Golf Balls


You recently answered a question on the performance of scuffed balls. I wouldn't play those and most balls don't get scuffed unless they hit a cart path. How about the performance of balls that are used but unblemished? Is there a limit on how long you can play them without loss of quality? Some balls last a long time if you keep them clean.

In other words, do the Pros change balls frequently due to surface blemishes or because they feel the compression may be diminished? And of course, theirs are free so that is probably also a factor.



You write a great column and I appreciate your well researched and well reasoned replies to questions.
My question is: how many times can you hit a golf ball before the performance begins to degrade?  I am a 4 handicap and often play the same ball for more than one round.  If a ball gets scuffed up from hitting a cart path or from a wedge shot where you really “pinch” it, I usually pull out a new ball.  So there are really two aspects to this question – 1) does a scuffed cover reduce performance?, and 2) does the interior of the ball break down after repeated strikes, thereby degrading performance?

Best regards,


Bill and Dave,
Because the pros don’t have to pay for their balls they change them or give them away to the spectators after several holes of use. For these super stars and certainly the rest of us this is not necessary unless the ball has any sort of surface blemish, which will affect the flight slightly –a lot less than what most of us might blame it for. This is not the case for really good Tour golfers who will recognize very slight changes in performance.

Some golfers have reported deterioration in performance or internal damage after seven or more rounds impacting the ball at very high swing speeds of 115 mph or more.

After checking with the experts in ball design, I am assured that using today’s 2-piece and other multilayered premium ball construction you don’t need to be concerned about deterioration in performance before nine or ten rounds if you are lucky enough to not to have lost it by then and the surface remains to be in pristine condition. This number of rounds will also depend on your clubhead speed at impact but for most of us, this is not of any concern.

A premium ball should withstand at least 100 driver impacts of 115 to 120 mph (about 7 rounds) without any noticeable signs of deterioration. By this time, you should have made very good friends with your ball for being so well behaved and not losing you. Well-behaved balls are hard to find so keep it in play as a reward.

This longevity for balls was not the case with wound balls -- made of rubber-thread windings around a solid or liquid core, and relatively thick covers -- which were so popular on the tour prior to the turn of the century. Today’s balls are very stable and have a single or double solid core with one or two surface layers, the outer one being very thin and designed for spin control around the greens.

Bill, don’t worry about performance deterioration because of internal damage as the surface will go first or if you are not nice to your ball, it will lose you before losing distance.