Written by Matt Stevens
Over the years, I’ve heard stories of golf ball divers making millions of dollars retrieving lost balls from ponds and lakes. While I am impressed and tip my hat to them, I question the quality of these products once retrieved.
In this guide, I answer the question, can golf balls get waterlogged. I look at the impact that a wet golf ball has on your original shape and carry distance. Plus, I explain the process that refurbishers follow to produce a recycled golf ball.
Are Golf Balls Still Good After Being in Water?
Gordan McKay, a Chemical Engineering Professor from Harvard, says water modifies the properties of the polymer cover. That impacts the performance of your shots. McKay says that the impact of damage depends on the time golf balls have spent underwater.
The consequences of a waterlogged golf ball are a massive decrease in distance and erratic ball flight.
Although there is evidence supporting the impact of waterlogged balls, I do not believe it to be a train smash for casual golfers. Take a high handicap golfer, for example. They do not strike the ball cleanly and consistently and lose distance whether they are teeing up a brand new Pro V1 or a refurbished Srixon Soft Feel.
Therefore, a waterlogged ball will not be as catastrophic to your results as it may be for superior golfers. A low handicap golfer may demand precise distance and accuracy as they attempt to score from any position on the golf course.
If a waterlogged golf ball takes 20 to 30-yards from your drive, you may want to splurge on a new sleeve.
How Long You Can Leave Golf Balls in Water
Vice Golf suggests that water will break through the outer layers within 12-hours of the ball entering the pond. They have found that the hydrophilic feature of a urethane or surlyn golf ball is the culprit.
A golf ball consists of hydrophilic and hydrophobic portions. The hydrophobic zones repel water while the hydrophilic areas attract it. This optimizes the performance of your golf ball in adverse conditions.
The hydrophilic sections help the ball mitigate bad weather. Conversely, the hydrophobic zones help keep the interior of the ball dry.
The polymer outer shell works hard to protect the golf ball core. However, the molecular structure breaks down after several hours. As a result, the hydrophobic zones repel water. Therefore water seeps through micro-cracks and drenches the ball’s outer and inner core.
How You Can Tell if a Golf Ball is Waterlogged
Once golf ball covers are dry, it is difficult to identify if they carry water damage. The only way you will know is in the golf ball’s performance.
If you suspect that a golf ball has endured water damage, you might conduct a weight test. Pull out the scale and see the weight of a new ball from the same range. Then compare it to the old one with liquid damage.
I have found that balls with water damage are heavier than usual, which impacts the consistency of your flight. If too much weight exists in one area, it may cause the golf ball to deviate from its original flight plan.
The color of the golf ball cover is one of the big signs it is waterlogged. Plus, it is the only way to detect the ball’s condition with the naked eye.
Your ball may have been at the bottom of a lake for sometime if it carries a brownish-yellow tinge on the cover. The water damage causes degradation of the coating, removing the glistening finish on the ball.
You can restore some color to the ball with a wash. However, it is difficult to completely eradicate the scars of water damage.
When you strike a fresh new ball with your driver, you should hear a pleasant ping sound. That signals to the other golfers on the course that you have crushed your drive. Unfortunately, waterlogged balls do not produce as pure a sound.
Marginal water damage may induce a faded ping sound. Conversely, severely soaked golf balls may deliver limited to no acoustics.
We have established that golf balls do not float in normal conditions. However, if you place a fresh golf ball in seawater or a diluted salt h20, it should float. If this does not occur, it could mean that the molecular structure of your ball is damaged, and the density of the ball is more than the saltwater.
A standard golf ball carries a density of 1.09-grams/milliliter. That is higher than freshwater. Freshwater reaches 1-gram/milliliter, which is why a golf ball sinks to the bottom of a pond. Conversely, when salt is added to the equation, the density of the two elements is on a par.
As a result, when a golf ball sinks in saltwater, it carries a higher density ratio than saltwater. This means it is heavier than it should be because of water damage.
The remaining ways to determine if your ball is waterlogged require a launch monitor. The technology provides accurate data on your launch, shot shape, and total distance. Without a launch monitor, it is challenging to determine this information.
Given the change of the dimple pattern and the weight of the ball, you can expect to experience an inconsistent launch. In my experience, severely waterlogged balls struggle to get airborne. The lack of friction, compression, and power causes it to fly low and lose carry distance.
For example, I used to frequent a range with ponds scattered around. Their golf balls did not float. Instead, they placed nets underneath that fed the balls into a pipeline and back to the pro shop.
The problem was that they sat there for hours on end, becoming severely waterlogged. Often, the ball would start in one direction and then go the other way. I induced a fade, and then it would draw back onto a straight line, mid-flight.
I have seen Rick Shiels use a Polara Ultimate Straight ball that does that on purpose. However, these range balls were not behaving. Now, you may not experience that much of a deviation, but watch out for flight inconsistency and the distance of your shots. In addition, evaluate your launch and descent angles to see if they are consistent.
Loss Of Distance
Vice Golf explains that water harms the core of your golf ball. That is the predominant energy source in the ball, and it helps you maximize your distance. After it is damaged by water, a ball cannot enhance compression and friction through impact.
Therefore, if a golf ball spends a week at the bottom of a lake, it will affect your tee shot distance by 5 to 10-yards. In addition, they have found that 3-months submerged in water can knock 20 to 30-yards off of your driving distance.
A 1996 article by Golf Digest discusses the impact of a waterlogged ball on total distance. In their study, a golf ball was resting on the bottom of a pond for a minimum of 8-days. The golf ball in question was a 2-piece construction, and the water was found to harden the ball, reducing compression.
As a result, the test subject struck a new 2-piece ball 250.7-yards. However, when they teed up the waterlogged design, it went 244.9-yards.
Will Waterlogged Golf Balls Dry Out?
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory carried out tests on waterlogged golf balls in 1998. They found that even if you dry the golf balls at high temperatures, it will not evaporate the moisture from the inner layers. As a result, the ball is scarred with permanent damage.
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.