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There are a lot of rumors and misconceptions about the impact of water on golf balls. Do they rot away in the pond? Can you fish them out and use them? Are golf balls good after being in the water for too long?
I also used to wonder the same and therefore decided to do a bit of research.
Occasionally, you will find divers filling bags of golf balls from the lake. Many of them might seem game-worthy, while others may seem to be waterlogged, right?
Let’s take a closer look at the question and see if these balls are still good.
Based on my research, golf balls do absorb water, and staying in water for too long will affect their performance. However, there are a lot of variables to consider as well.
From the ball quality to the time it spent submerged, the lake’s depth, whether the water was salt water or fresh, and more, all of these factors affect whether a golf ball is still good after being submerged.
Among the number of balls I destroyed testing the question out, I found that submerging the ball in a glass of water – even for a week – had little to no impact on its looks or performance.
This is because there was very little water pressure and the ball was high-quality as well.
The difference you see in the ball’s performance will vary, as mentioned above. Initially, I made the following observations:
• For an average, 2-layered ball, it takes about 12 hours for the water to penetrate the cover and start seeping into the core. This means that for at least 10-11 hours, golf balls are waterproof.
• A ball needs to have at least 6-feet of water on top (2.85 psi of pressure) to be impacted adversely within 12 hours.
• The amount of water that your ball will absorb will vary depending on the ball’s material
• A ball that has absorbed water will retain that moisture, even if you decide to bake it in an oven. Of course, this means that the ball is no longer useful. It is only when the ball starts melting that the moisture escapes.
• If you manage to pull out a ball no more than 10 hours after it was submerged, there may not be any adverse effects. A ball left in water traveled 251 yards on average when tested, while a new ball averaged 252.04 yards.
• A ball submerged in a lake for 24 or 36 hours may not show signs of being impaired.
• It takes about 12 hours for the water to penetrate the cover and start finding its way to the core.
Do Golf Ball Layers Make a Difference With Water?
There are two, three, and four-piece golf balls out there, and as you can expect, it does make a huge difference in how long the ball can stay underwater before the core gets contaminated with water.
A two-piece ball gets damaged by water much faster than a four-layered ball. For example, after 12 hours in the water, the two-piece ball at 2 psi will start letting in water and getting damaged.
Within 8 days, the ball will lose roughly 6 yards of flight time and 4-5 yards of roll. In three months, this will increase to a 9-yard loss of flight time and 7-8 yards of roll.
A four-layer ball, on the other hand, will take longer for the same amount of damage. It will lose 3 yards of flight time and 2-3 yards of roll after 8 days, 5 yards of flight and 4-5 yards after 3 months, and so on.
The ball’s outer layer will show signs of damage, regardless of how many layers it has. I tested the balls with a club because I wanted to see if the shot itself needs to be adjusted or not.
Despite the damage, if the conditions aren’t as windy you can still expect the ball to fly straight.
Companies that recycle these balls, however, use a cannon to see its flight time. Based on the aerodynamics and density, they determine how many layers the ball has and the time it has spent underwater.
A waterlogged ball will still fly and can be used for practice, but you shouldn’t make a habit of using it. If the ball has spent more than 12 hours underwater, you will initially find that you have to make some adjustments.
However, with time you may get used to this. This will, in turn, impact your performance even when you finally decide to play with a new ball.
Why Do 3-4 Layered Balls Hold Up Better?
Part of the reason why three- and four-layered balls fare better against water damage is that they have better material used in them. These ‘premium’ balls cost more, the core all the way to its outer urethane cover – everything has a much better build quality.
Here is an illustration of the layers of a golf ball’s construction;
|Layer 1||Urethane Cover||Urethane Cover||Urethane Cover|
|Layer 2||Inner Core||Mantle Layer||Outer Mantle|
|Layer 3||Inner Core||Inner Mantle|
|Layer 4||Inner Core|
For the 2-piece golf ball, as soon as the urethane cover gets punctured, the inner core gets contaminated immediately, hence impacting the ball’s performance and unfortunately, leads to performance issues.
2-piece golf balls are unable to retain their performance after their core gets exposed to water.
For the 3 and 4-piece golf balls, after the urethane cover, you have the mantle layer(s). Usually, mantle layers help the core stay protected even if water does manage to get inside the outer layer.
These balls are designed to take much more abuse from clubs and the environment, and therefore are able to last longer underwater.
Another important consideration to make is whether you buy cheaper or ‘premium’ balls. The better your golf ball’s material, specifically the outer layer, the longer golf balls will survive in water.
This answers the question of whether golf balls are waterproof or not as well. As long as the urethane layer is intact, golf balls are in essence waterproof.
When buying your next golf ball, consider buying one that can last longer in water. A net and an extendable handle to pull out your golf ball (and perhaps others) from the lake can also be especially handy if you are looking to save the ball. Just make sure you pull it out in time!