Do Golf Balls Go Bad? [Expiration Date?]

If you’ve played golf for long enough, you’ve likely got a few old balls kicking about in the back of your garage.

Perhaps you’ve thought about dusting those unused golf balls off and getting them back onto the golf course.

But is that a wise decision? Is there a golf ball shelf life and do they end up deteriorating over time?

Let’s find out.

Do Golf Balls Go Bad?

Ed Welton

Founder, Editor

Ed is the founder and editor at EEE Golf. He’s been playing golf for over 20 years, competing in many top amateur events. He’s played courses all over the world and played with some of the best players in the game. His aim is to help educate people about the game of golf and give insights into the sport he loves most.

Do Golf Balls Go Bad?

A golf ball which is left alone, in normal household conditions is likely to last 10+ years, depending on how it is stored.

Modern golf balls are built to last, unlike old golf balls, so it’s not probable that any modern golf ball would end up becoming worse over time if it’s not being used and is just sat at home collecting dust.

However, there are occasions when a golf ball will go bad and not perform to the same standard as if it were a new golf ball.

Here’s a few factors that could affect whether a golf ball may become bad.

Type of Ball

Not all golf balls are the same and contrary to popular belief they aren’t actually hollow.

The construction of a golf ball will play a big part in how long it will be good for use.

Depending on the type of inner core and outer core, it can mean the ball is more easily damaged during play.

Golf ball manufacturers usually have a range of different balls, with different dimple patterns and either with a Surlyn cover such as a Bridgestone e6 or a Urethane cover such as a Srixon Soft Feel.

The cover golf balls use can have an impact on how they perform, but also how long they last.

The more premium golf balls built with the softer Urethane cover will likely be more prone to wear and tear when out on the golf course.

The added spin and control it provides also comes with an increased cost and more chance of becoming damaged.

Surlyn cover balls on the other hand are a cheaper alternative which is more durable.

These golf balls will cost you less and are primarily aimed at the higher handicap or beginner golfer.

The focus on greater distance also couples with the fact that they will scratch up far less easily.


If left in water for a prolonged period of time, balls can become waterlogged.

Golf ball covers are built to withstand any moisture, but if left in water for a certain amount of time, it can affect usability.

In just 12 hours, water is able to get inside the golf ball which will affect performance.

It’s for this reason lake balls are best left alone if you’re serious about your golf game.

I decided to test this theory to see if waterlogged golf balls make much of a difference and do golf balls go bad in water.

I left a slightly used golf ball in water for over a month and then took it out to play.

When compared to a brand new ball out of the packet, there was a noticeable difference in how far the waterlogged ball went.

The flight was also a little shaky compared to a brand new ball, with more inconsistent spin rates on almost all shots.

do golf balls go bad in water

Skill Level

The skill level of a golfer can have a big impact on whether a golf ball can become damaged or not.

Golf balls can easily become cut up or marked if they’re thinned out of a bunker for example.

All golfers can hit bad shots, but it’s most likely less skilled players who are thinning shots like this.

If you’re hitting it into the woods frequently, this can lead to the ball becoming scuffed up.

Conversely, a golfer who has a good level of ball striking can very likely damage a ball when using a wedge.

Depending on the ball’s cover and the sharpness of the grooves, a good quality golfer hitting down on the back of the ball can result in it becoming cut up.

How To Tell If A Golf Ball Has Gone Bad?

Most of the time, a golf ball will have very obvious signs of damage which you’ll be able to spot quite easily.

These will include cut marks on the cover such as a big scratch across the ball or perhaps some paint loss.

A ball with obvious signs of wear and tear is best left alone as this can massively affect the flight of a shot and the total distance it flies.

Usually, any scuff which is bigger than a small penny is a sign that the ball should be replaced by either a new golf ball or one that’s less affected.

How to Tell If A Golf Ball Has Gone Bad?

Of course, there’s no need to use a new golf ball every time you see a slight mark on it. If you’re good enough to play 18 holes with the same ball, it’s almost certainly going to have some signs of wear by the 18th green.

Golf’s expensive enough as it is, let alone when you’re dishing out new golf balls every other hole.

Used golf balls are totally acceptable for a round of golf and most of the time they won’t perform any differently to a new ball out of the box.

Just be sure to check for any marks or damage signs prior to playing.

How Should You Store Golf Balls?

You might have heard of a few different theories about storing golf balls in a freezer to keep them cool or even keeping them in heated boxes to help gain a few extra yards.

All of these theories are best avoided when it comes to golf ball storage and can actually be detrimental to the golf ball performance and longevity of the ball.

In fact, golf ball researchers at Titleist came to the conclusion that provided they’re stored in normal indoor conditions, a ball will be good for at least 5 years.

Prolonged exposure to anything more extreme temperature-wise is more likely to cause a golf ball to go bad, as opposed to if you store golf balls in a dry place with stable temperatures.

Final Thoughts

The modern golf ball is built to last and as such, the shelf life of a golf ball isn’t something you should be worrying about.

However, as mentioned, there are a few different factors that will reduce its shelf life if stored in the wrong place like a more extreme temperature.

On the golf course is where most of the damage can occur which leads to the ball becoming unusable. So it’s always important to check your balls before each hole, or at least before each round, to confirm it’s in good shape.


How do you know when a golf ball is bad?

If a ball is visibly damaged, with marks or scuffs that are anything bigger than a small penny, then it’s best to change balls.

If anywhere on the ball’s cover has been penetrated, then it’s also a good idea to use another ball.

When should you replace golf balls?

A golf ball should be replaced after about five rounds of golf or when there is a visible sign of wear and tear such as a cut or paint loss.

How long do golf balls last?

A golf ball will usually last a good few rounds provided there’s no signs of wear and tear. If the ball has any marks or damage on the cover then this will impact its performance and means it could do with changing.

Scroll to Top