Experienced golfers know how often they lose their golf balls on the golf course or in some pond. Others learned to get the balls out of the water sources, clean them, and use them again. Some people turned collecting balls from water into a business and raised questions such as: can golf balls get waterlogged, and what do we need to know if they can?
The golf ball does not allow a fast penetration of water to the ball core, but it does not entirely stop it. It means that a golf ball is not waterproof. The water penetrates to the core through the fillers, using them almost like a freeway.
The golf ball core is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs water. However, it takes 12 hours for the water to get through the cover and find its way to the core. Therefore, we can confidently conclude that a golf ball that has been immersed underwater for an extended period can be waterlogged.
The soaking will definitely affect the golf ball’s physical characteristics and performance.
This information naturally raises questions such as why the water penetrates the golf ball so slowly over time and how this affects its performance. Another good thing to know is whether balls can be dried and respectively – can recycled golf balls be trusted since many of them come out of water sources? All you need to know about golf balls and the water penetrating them resides in the answers you will hopefully find below 🙂
Golf Ball – Construction And Purpose
To find answers, we need to pay attention to the makeup of the golf ball, its construction and properties, and the materials from which it is fabricated. Then we should analyze how a waterlogged golf ball may affect a golfer’s play and what experts recommend. In any case, lessons learned from life prove that water is a natural force that sooner or later takes what is hers.
From a golf perspective, we should instead think about whether it is possible to use balls affected by the water or not. However, it is doubtful that a self-respecting seasoned golfer will use waterlogged balls on a tournament or any kind of vaguely important or formal round.
A golf ball is a particular type of ball designed for playing golf (funnily enough). According to the USGA regulations, a golf ball should have a maximum mass of 1,620 oz. and a minimum diameter of 1,680″. R&A, however, allowed usage of more petite golf balls until 1990, known as British balls. (1)
Since 1960, golf ball fabrication comprised two basic synthetic materials – urethane and an ionomer known as Surlyn. Although industry developed various modern materials to make the core, layers and fillers, Surlyn and urethane are still in use. There are several types of golf balls, and in the list below, we present to you the main categories.
- Advanced balls
- Recreational balls
- Practice/Range balls
- Recycled balls
List 1 Note (1)
Construction Of The Golf Balls
The first golf balls consisted of wood, followed by leather and rubber golf balls until today. The modern golf balls are made either of Surlyn or urethane and have two, three, or four-piece structures. Depending on the producer, the manufacturing process may vary in terms of materials configuration.
Looking at a typical golf ball surface, you will probably suppose that it is water-resistant. However, if you look at the surface under a microscope, you will notice gaps in her molecular structure. The table below displays the materials and the most popular models for the four main constructed types of golf balls.
|Liquid Center||Balata, urethane, or elastomer.||Maxfli Elite, Slazenger Pro Preferred,Titleist Professional, Titleist Tour Distance|
|Solid Core Wound||Surlyn and urethane||Maxfli Revolution, Maxfli Tour Patriot,Slazenger Players, Titleist DT Spin|
|Multilayered||Vary||Callaway Rule35, Maxfli Revolution Solid,Nike Tour Accuracy, Precept Tour Premium, Strata Tour Ultimate, TaylorMade InerGel Tour, Titleist HP, Titleist Pro V1, Wilson iWound.|
|Solid Core||Surlyn and ionomer||Pinnacle TitaniumExtreme Distance, Precept MC, Lady, Slazenger Raw Distance, Top-Flite XL, Top-Flite XL 2000, Titleist DT Distance, Wilson Smart-CoreProfessional Distance|
Table 1 Note (3)
The core of the two-piece golf ball typically comprises rubber or synthetic rubber, surrounded by a hardcover. The core goes in an injection mold. Melted Surlyn or urethane is injected then around the core to form a hard dimpled covering of the ball. (2)
The three-piece golf ball has an identical structure but one more rubber covering between the center and the outer finish. This rubber covering or just rubber string surrounds the core center. Then a hardcover finishes the ball construction.
Consequently, the four-piece golf ball adds another layer between the rubber cover of the core and the final hardcover. The specific detail here is that this intermediate layer is more rigid than the core cover but softer than the outer finish. The combination of the materials depends on both the purpose of the ball (distance or control) and the manufacturer.
Golf Ball Purpose In Design
The design and chemical composition of golf balls intend to support the game’s main requirements – speed, spin, lift, drag, trajectory, distance, etc. The design also obeys the regulations of golf for size, diameter, and mass. However, materials that best support the characteristics of aerodynamics do not provide waterproof qualities, unfortunately.
Regarding the mass of the golf ball, designers estimate the weight of every element and every layer of the golf ball, so it does not surpass the weight according to golf regulations. However, when water penetrates the ball, it will increase its weight. Fortunately, it could not happen during a game but only after an extended stay of the ball under the water.
The Effect of Water and Waterlogging
First of all, we have to clarify that water has different effects on a wet golf ball and a waterlogged golf ball. A wet golf ball may perform better in some aspects of the game. It is not a secret that some golfers prefer playing in the mornings with dew, and others spray their golf balls with water.
It is not some trick, but it has a practical explanation. The grooves of a dry club head grasp a dry golf ball better, creating more friction and backspin. On the other hand, a wet golf ball creates less friction and backspin because it slips more on the clubhead. (4)
As a result, a wet golf ball flies higher and has far less spin than usual. Some studies compared launch angle, spin rate, and height for dry and wet clubs and balls and concluded this statement. Below, we provide a list of measurements for comparison.
- Dry club and dry ball
- Launch angle – 25,4̊
- Spin rate – 6603 rpm
- Height – 21,2 ft.
- Wet club and dry ball
- Launch angle – 27,8̊
- Spin rate – 5463 rpm
- Height – 26.5 ft.
- Dry club and wet ball
- Launch angle –
- Spin rate – 5291 rpm
- Height – 28,4 ft.
List 2 Note (4)
Seasoned golfers know very well that moisture has favorable effects on their golf balls in terms of distance and less spin. They try to benefit from this as much as possible. However, the situation is different when the ball is saturated.
To sum up, the most common materials used in the golf ball industry are thermoplastic ionomers such as Surlyn and Lotek and thermoset polyurethane. Both categories of materials are water permeable. Research on the effects of water on golf balls found that water-logging leads to decreased ball performance and partial loss of some material properties.
Researchers analyzed cover typical materials and rubber cores to find out to what extent the golf ball is affected by a prolonged soaking in water. Via different tests, they tried to determine how water-logging runs its course and what the consequences are. Below are detailed the highlights of the research.
- Water Sorption/Desorption – to establish water diffusion rate in the Surlyn.
- Mass Spectroscopy – to establish the type of salts in the Surlyn that affect the affinity to water.
- Infrared Analysis (FTIR) – analyze IR Spectra of the cover and core materials to establish structural changes after water-logging.
- Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) – to determine elasticity changes in the polymer morphology due to water absorption.
- Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) – to ascertain water adsorption and changes in thermal changes.
- Mechanical Characterization – to ascertain the superficial properties of the Surlyn and the polybutadiene rubber before and after submersion in water for 70 hrs., one week, two weeks, and three weeks at 71°C.
List 2 Note (3)
In laboratory tests, researchers compared the initial golf ball performance with their performance after submerging underwater for a long time. They also observed changes in the original value of the materials after the water-logging. The most considerable effect found on performance was on golf ball distance.
The effect on the spin was not profound, providing the surface of the balls was wiped for the tests. Nevertheless, the study highlights that the change of specific material properties does not necessarily correspond to the loss of behavior. This statement means that if your golf ball has absorbed 10% water, for example, it will not automatically decrease its carry distance by 10%.
The Effect On Performance
How does water impair the golf ball’s performance? Penetrated water needs space, so it forms an additional water layer within the ball. It, consequently, increases the mass of the ball, which changes its original mechanical and aerodynamic characteristics.
Additionally, water creates small chambers between the layers. These chambers increase the distance between the layers, and this way decreases the friction between each layer. With less friction between layers, the ball needs more kinetic energy provided by the clubface to fly.
In other words, due to the extra space occupied by the water, the ball can not compress well and absorb the energy necessary to achieve a high carry distance. The result is a loss of yardage after the shot. Besides, a waterlogged heavier ball is imbalanced, and every spin makes it uncontrollable.
The Changes In Material
The study tests also proved that water adsorption causes reduced tensile strength of the golf ball’s composite materials. At the same time, stretch properties increase significantly. Researchers also found a loss of resilience of the elastic modulus of the core.
The research concluded that a golf ball absorbs water and that the higher the water temperature is, the more water the ball absorbs. When the core material loses resilience under the influence of this water, this process leads to distance reduction. Probably the most critical finding of this research, however, is that even an intensive high-temperature drying of the ball under vacuum cannot entirely remove the absorbed water. (3)
Scientists and seasoned golfers also take a stand regarding waterlogged balls, relating them, in most cases, to the play with reclaimed golf balls. Most of them agree that golf balls absorb water, which affects their performance. The main problem is that you realize this fact after you stroke the ball, not before that.
Others see this problem in playing with reclaimed balls, which, in most cases, are recycled from waterlogged golf balls. These balls do not behave as the new balls would, but it may be too late when you find that out. These golfers see the Performance Indicator technology as a possible solution to this issue. (3)
The Commercial Side
The fact that golf balls are water-permeable is not something new. The logical question then is, can they be made water-resistant? The simple answer is yes, they can, but this is very unlikely to happen.
There are scientific and commercial explanations of why the golf ball cover is not made waterproof, but the commercial ones usually prevail. From a scientific perspective, a waterproof ball is supposed to be harder than usual, and more rigid balls affect the compression rate. Compression, on the other hand, is one of the main elements that affects performance and control.
The commercial side, however, is simple and persuasive. Golf ball manufacturers produce thousands, if not millions of golf balls a year, that need selling. A waterproof cover will expand the golf ball’s lifespan, reduce sales, and lead to business losses.
Can We Trust Recycled Balls?
Another thriving business in the area of golf is the business of recycled golf balls. Many golfers use such balls because of advertising that the ball is cheaper whilst still retaining their original qualities. However, the vast majority of these balls have been recycled after an unidentified stay in ponds, pools, lakes, the ocean. It drives us to ask the question, can we trust such balls?
Whether the answer is yes or no is down to you! Think about both the purpose you buy recycled balls and the type of golf player you are. If you are a beginner or play golf just occasionally, there is nothing wrong with using recycled balls. They will not affect your play significantly.
If you are a seasoned or pro-golfer, using recycled balls probably won’t be a good look for you. You simply don’t want to take the risk that any of your balls are water-logged and thus skewing your performance. Not exactly helpful when you are trying to iron out the kinks in your game!
Whether or not we think recycled balls are a good idea it certainly is a thriving business! A particular company thriving in this business reported on five leading distributors of used balls in the US, which deliver 20 million used golf balls per year. In this comparison, they point out that a diver that retrieves balls from ponds delivers approximately a million balls per year. (5)
The problem with water-logging of golf balls has been a subject of innovative researches by various scientists and designers. Some time ago, a company designed a golf ball, which turned grey when it got waterlogged. The idea behind coloring was to indicate water damage to the ball, and that the ball requires replacement. (6)
The idea was sound but without commercial success. The weak point was the replacement itself – golfers did not necessarily change the waterlogged ball with the same type of color indicating ball. Once again, the business side prevailed over the benefits of the game.
The Tip-Top 3 FAQ About Balls Water-logging
Does Water Ruin Golf Balls?
It depends on how long a golf ball has immersed underwater. Even waterlogged golf balls can last a long time, but their playing effectiveness will decrease. When a more significant fracture appears on the ball’s cover, and the water invades the inner part on a bigger scale, the water can ruin the golf ball.
Should I Play With Waterlogged Golf Balls?
Generally, every self-respecting golfer would answer that you should not. However, if you are an absolute novice or want to play some golf for fun, just from time to time, why not? The loss of several yards of your shot most likely will not lessen your enjoyment of a casual round!
Are Lake Balls Any Good?
Again, it depends on the purpose you intend to use the golf balls. If you use them just for practice or fun play during a barbeque with friends, they are outstanding. If you are a low handicapper, however, such balls are inappropriate for you.
- 1. Wikipedia, “Golf Ball.” Wikimedia Foundation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golf_ball Assessed May 16, 2021
- 2. Hill, Brian. “How Are Golf Balls Made?” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, https://golftips.golfweek.usatoday.com/golf-balls-made-20217.html Assessed May 18, 2021
- 3. Docplayer, “TECHNICAL OVERVIEW GOLF BALL CONSTRUCTION AND THE EFFECT OF WATER ON A GOLF BALL RESEARCH AND CONCLUSIONS (PAGE 4).”, https://docplayer.net/4077112-Technical-overview-golf-ball-construction-and-the-effect-of-water-on-a-golf-ball-research-and-conclusions-page-4.html Assessed May 17, 2021
- 4. Kerr-Dineen, Luke., “Amazing Slow Motion Video Shows the Science behind Wet Golf Balls.” Golf, https://golf.com/gear/wedges/slow-motion-golf-ball-water-effects/ Assessed May 16, 2021
- 5. Barr, Adam., “Get Used to It Recycled Balls Are Big Business.” Golf Channel, www.golfchannel.com/article/adam-barr/get-used-it-recycled-balls-are-big-business Assessed May 17, 2021
- 6. Prashad, Sharda. “One Size Won’t Fit All.” The Globe and Mail, www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-growth/one-size-wont-fit-all/article4259096/ Assessed May 18, 2021