Will Your Golf Balls Go Bad in Water? Uncovering the Hidden Impact on Performance

Ever wondered what happens to those golf balls that end up in water hazards? Does a little dip affect their performance or are they just as good as new once they’re dried off? You’re not alone in your curiosity.

Water hazards are a common sight on golf courses and it’s inevitable that a few of your balls are going to end up in one. But does this mean they’re ruined, or can they still deliver that perfect swing?

In this article, we’ll delve into the science behind golf balls, their design, and how water impacts their performance. You’ll gain insight into whether those water-logged balls are worth retrieving or best left for the fishes.

Key Takeaways

  • Golf balls can go bad in water if submerged for a prolonged period. A water-logged golf ball faces performance issues due to compromised integrity of the core and the cover.
  • The core is predominantly composed of rubber, which absorbs water after a certain duration, affecting the ball’s bounce and travel distance. A typical golf ball can begin water absorption after about 12 hours of submersion.
  • The integrity of a golf ball’s cover is also affected by water absorption. Constant absorption and evaporation can cause structural damage to the ball, causing further degradation in performance.
  • Water immersion also impacts the dimples of a golf ball, which play a crucial role in ball flight and aerodynamics. Degradation in their condition can lead to inconsistencies in ball trajectory.
  • Based on manufacturers’ studies, golf balls can retain their peak performance under water for a maximum of 12 hours. Submersion beyond the recommended duration can significantly degrade the ball’s performance.
  • To prevent water damage, ensure golf balls are stored in a dry place, regularly rotated, checked for cracks before each game, and if possible, use balls with water-resistant covers. Trying to avoid water obstacles on the course can also prevent water submersion.

Understanding Golf Balls

Before diving into the relationship between golf balls and water absorption, it’s essential to grasp a basic understanding of golf balls. Manufacturers design these spherical tools, typically measuring 1.68 inches in diameter, with the goal in mind to soar long distances with precise accuracy. Two key factors dominate their design – the core and the cover.

Let’s delve into the core, the golf ball’s heart. Manufacturers predominantly construct this using rubber, favoring it for its high energy transfer properties. The core determines your golf balls’ bounce and travel distance, so bear in mind, this is not an area to overlook. Also, recall that this very core is the potential site for water penetration in poorly maintained or overused balls.

Moving outwards, you find the cover, golf balls’ protective skin. Manufacturers often use surlyn or urethane, materials known for their durability and high performance. Surlyn covers, tough and resilient, resist cuts and nicks, ensuring the golf balls maintain a pristine, round shape. Urethane covers, on the other hand, are softer, offering a professional-level performance with a feel beloved by pro golfers. It stands to reason that a compromised cover exposes the core to the elements, potentially reducing its performance.

To fully understand the impact of water on golf balls, consider the role of the dimples. These small indentations that cover the ball’s surface are not just for show; they’re a significant factor in controlling the golf ball’s flight. When a golf ball is struck, the dimples create a turbulence effect in the layer of air around the ball, reducing drag and allowing the ball to fly further. An array of anywhere between 300 to 500, these dimples impact the aerodynamics, explaining why pocked, damaged, or water-logged golf balls fail to meet their expected performance standards.

To answer the question on your mind, yes, golf balls can go bad in water, which we’ll discuss in greater detail in the next section. A better understanding of the golf ball’s anatomy will offer a clearer perspective on why water can voice such a profound impact.

Do Golf Balls Go Bad in Water?

Submerging golf balls in water for a longer duration impacts their performance, resulting in a dimmed flight and trajectory. Studies reveal a direct correlation between the golf ball’s performance and its time in the water. A golf ball, after spending around 12 hours in the water, begins to absorb water into its core, putting its performance integrity at risk.

The core, composed mostly of rubber, allows the ball to bounce and roll properly. Water absorption compromises these characteristics. An absorbed water content of almost 3-6% per week in room-temperature water changes the elasticity of the rubber core. This alteration disrupts the ball’s capacity to respond efficiently to the golf club’s swing. So, if you’ve found a golf ball in a water hazard on a course, it’s likely its performance has been compromised.

Similarly, the water absorption impacts the golf ball’s cover integrity. The constant absorption and evaporation process strain the ball’s external layer. This contributes to cracks and structural damage that further degrade the ball’s performance.

The dimples of a golf ball also suffer due to water logging. Considering their role in controlling the golf ball’s flight and aerodynamics, any degradation can lead to inconsistency in the ball’s trajectory. A problematic performance in windy conditions could be one such consequence of water-logged dimples.

In a nutshell, golf balls do go bad in water. Water resistance is a common consideration manufacturers take into account. Yet, it’s important to understand that extended exposure to water can degrade your golf balls’ efficacy, potentially putting a damper on your game.

How Long Can Golf Balls Stay in Water

Golf balls submerged in water endure gradual deterioration, becoming ineffective over time. Based on multiple golf ball manufacturers’ studies, golf balls retain peak performance under water for a maximum of 12 hours. However, the commissioner rule (26-1b/3.4), acknowledged in both, the “Rules of Golf” by The United States Golf Association and R&A Rules Limited, allows the ball to be in water up to 14 days without a noticeable reduction in distance.

But note that any golf balls immersed more than these durations, show drastic degradation in elasticity and hardness. Research reveals a two-week soaked golf ball could lose as much as 5 to 10 yards in flight distance. Submerge it longer, say a month, and you’re looking at losing up to 30 yards.

Let’s take the example of retrievers. They collect lost golf balls from water hazards on a golf course, usually on a weekly basis. A review of these retrieved balls showed significant performance loss for golf balls that have been immersed for more than a week. It just agees with what we previously noted – water exposure beyond certain durations leads to significant loss of golf ball performance.

Just remember that each day a golf ball spends submerged in water is a day it loses some of its capability. Hence, it’s wise to collect balls out of the water as quickly as possible and allow for proper drying. In summary, to retain optimal golf ball performance, keep your golf balls high, dry, and out of water hazards.

Testing Golf Ball Performance

To understand the effects of water on a golf ball’s performance, it’s imperative to conduct a series of tests. Assessing a golf ball’s distance, spin, and accuracy provide tangible metrics to gauge performance decline.

Tests with a golf launch monitor offer insight into the distance compromise. Once a golf ball’s been submerged for significant periods, you can measure carry distance. Use a consistent swing speed on dry land. Compare these figures with measurements obtained for the same balls post-submersion.

Spin tests ascertain how prolonged water immersion affects ball rotation. Using a wedge, hit the balls and measure their spin rate. Again, juxtapose these metrics with results from freshly submerged balls.

Finally, accuracy tests judge flight inconsistency. One method involves standing 200 yards from the target. The deviation of the resulting roll or bounce from a designated target line indicates ball accuracy.

Conduct these tests with several balls, ensuring the results are indicative of broad performance. Consider utilizing the same balls from previous tests for greater validity.

Trials show that golf balls lose about 5 to 12 yards distance after a fortnight underwater due to water absorption. Spin tests point to a decrease of approximately 700 to 1200 revolutions per minute, undermining shots that rely on spin control. Accuracy tests highlight an appreciable difference in deviation from intended line post-immersion.

Importantly, conditions unique to each exposure context might affect how quickly a ball degrades underwater. Storage temperatures, chemical content of water, and the period of exposure — all factor in degradation speed.

Scientific tests validate these results — professionals cite a significant decrease in performance upon prolonged water exposure. It’s through such systematic and comparative testing that golf ball performance in water is accurately assessed.

How to Protect Golf Balls from Water Damage

Golf ball preservation plays a critical role, given the detrimental impact water has on their performance. The task, thankfully, isn’t daunting. Simple, effective methods help prolong their lifespan and keep them in top-shape. Let’s look at a few strategies you can employ.

  1. Dry Storage After Use: After a round on the green, make sure to retrieve and dry off your balls before packing them away. By storing them in a dry and ventilated place, you significantly reduce the chance of water-related performance degradation.
  2. Regular Rotation: To avoid ball degradation, implement a regular rotation system. It involves using a set of balls until they show signs of wear, switch them out for a fresh set, and repeat the process. Regularly rotating your golf balls ensures you’re always playing with balls in good condition.
  3. Inspect for Cracks: Before every game, checking your balls for any visible cracks proves beneficial. Water seepage into these cracks aids in the internal degradation of the balls, negatively impacting performance. As a preventive measure, discard any balls displaying cracks.
  4. Avoid Water Obstacles: Although water hazards on the course can’t be entirely avoided, you can aim to stay clear of them as much as possible. Not immersing balls in water for extended periods eliminates the risk of water damage.
  5. Use Water-resistant Golf Ball Covers: Select balls with water-resistant covers. These special covers are designed to lock out moisture, providing an additional layer of protection.

By following these methods, you can effectively reduce the risk of water damage, ensuring your golf balls retain their integrity and perform at their peak for longer. Just remember, the key to maintaining golf ball quality lies in proper storage, regular checks, and rotation.


So, you’ve seen how water can play the villain in your golf game. If your balls are underwater for more than 12 hours, they’ll start to lose their edge, and after two weeks, you’ll notice a significant drop in distance. Your shots may lose up to 12 yards, your spin rate could drop by as much as 1200 RPM, and your accuracy could take a hit. Remember, these effects can be amplified by factors like storage temperatures and water’s chemical content. To keep your golf balls in top shape, dry and store them properly, rotate them regularly, inspect for damage, avoid water hazards when you can, and consider using water-resistant covers. Your golf balls don’t have to go bad in water – with the right care, you can keep them performing at their best.

Q1: How does water affect golf ball performance?

Water affects a golf ball’s performance by reducing its distance, spin, and accuracy. If submerged for prolonged periods, a golf ball can lose 5 to 12 yards in distance, and experience decreased spin rate by 700 to 1200 RPM. Accuracy can also deviate from the intended line.

Q2: How long can a golf ball perform optimally when submerged in water?

Optimally, a golf ball can withstand water for up to 12 hours before its performance is affected. The drop in performance becomes significant after 14 days of water immersion.

Q3: What influences the rate of a golf ball’s performance degradation in water?

The rate at which a golf ball’s performance degrades in water is influenced by storage temperatures and the chemical content of the water.

Q4: What are some strategies to protect golf balls from water damage?

Strategies to protect golf balls from water damage include drying and storing them correctly, regular rotation, inspecting for cracks, avoiding water obstacles on the course, and using water-proof covers.

Q5: How essential is systematic testing in assessing golf ball performance in water?

Systematic testing is vital in accurately assessing golf ball performance in water. It helps reveal specific impacts and necessary protective measures for prolonged performance.