What is the Shelf Life of a Golf Ball?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

The shelf life of a golf ball depends a lot on which type of ball it is. The solid rubberized plastic balls typically found at miniature golf courses and driving ranges could last five years or more, since it has very low compression and tends to stay "in round." The debate over the shelf life really begins with the older model known as a wounded balata ball.

The balata golf ball is good for about three years.
The balata golf ball is good for about three years.

A balata golf ball used to be the standard bearer of the modern ball. In its center was a liquid-filled rubber sphere, which is really the engine of the ball. A generous supply of elastic thread was then wound around the core to give it more elasticity and compression, or the ability to rebound from a hit. This elastic thread was wound very tightly to maintain tension. The entire ball would then be covered with a very strong casing with dimpling for better aerodynamics. Golfing experts suggest that an older three-piece ball might have a shelf life of two to four years.

The reason a three-piece golf ball has a relatively short shelf life is due to the nature of the elastic threading. After a balata golf ball has been used by a player a few times, it could begin to fall out of round. The wound elastic threads may also begin to lose some of their initial tension and elasticity, causing a measurable loss of yardage on drives. An older three-piece ball often does not have the same amount of energy return as a newer one, and there is every chance the outer shell could become nicked or sliced during play.

The modern replacement for the three-piece balata has an estimated shelf life of at least five to eight years, depending on proper storage conditions and amount of use. A solid rubber ball has largely replaced the older fluid-filled core, and many of the newest balls use advanced rubbers and plastics to provide the same tension and compression. As long as the new golf ball sleeves are stored at room temperature, they could conceivably last as long as the golfer who uses them. Once a ball begins to show signs of damage or loss of yardage, however, it might best to switch to a newer one. Damaged golf balls can do damage to club heads, and the replacement cost of a club face is much higher than the cost of a new sleeve of balls.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Recently found some brand new old golf balls in a golf bag of my grandfather┬┤s which had not been taken out of storage for 20+ years. I haven┬┤t tried playing with them yet. Most of the XXXX golf balls which were in the bag had evidently lost their shape, it didn't take much of a test to figure out they were flat. Worst comes to worst I'll hit them for practice into a pond or something.


When I started golfing, I was told that shelf life depends a lot on the golf ball brand. Like anything, brands that have been around a long time, such as Titleist golf balls and Callaway golf balls, tend to last a long time. However, when golf became more mainstream, practically every major sporting company began making their own balls, and many people get them from things like their employers printing balls with the logo on them; many of these golf balls not only have a shorter shelf life, they are less well-made. This means they have less balance, hit worse, and are generally not as good to play with.


The shelf life of a golf ball for me is as long as I don't go golfing, it sits on the shelf.

Perhaps the worst part of my golfing situation, is that as soon as I do take that ball off the shelf burned out my clothes for a wonderful Saturday afternoon golf game, I ended up hitting the ball into the water.

Perhaps my goals and last longer if I simply could never take them off the shelf and play golf again.

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