Are Lake Balls Worth It
kallerna, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are Lake Balls Worth It?

If you’re looking to save some money, these days who isn’t, then you might want to think about purchasing some lake balls rather than those expensive Pro V1s that you keep hitting into the woods!

Between my own experience over the years and looking at the experience of other golfers you should get a good idea of whether it’s worth you shopping for used or sticking with brand new golf balls.

PGA Tour players can afford a new ball every few holes because they get them for free but I assume you don’t.

What Are Lake Balls?

“Lake balls” is a generic term to describe golf balls that have been found and then cleaned and packaged for resale. Generally, they are retrieved from water hazards on golf courses. Let’s face it there are plenty of balls being hit into lakes, ponds and streams every day!

Some people refer to them as “water golf balls”.

Given that in the US alone there are a reported 300 million balls are lost each year it’s no surprise that finding golf balls is a huge profit maker. Unfortunately ordinary golf balls don’t float so they aren’t easy for us to recover.

Rick Shiels on lake balls

Are Lake Balls Any Good?

If you’ve not been playing golf for too long then you might be wondering whether lake balls are a bargain or a waste of money. Not surprisingly you can find many different opinions on the Internet and in the golfing press.

Most companies that sell them separate them into different grades based on the condition of the ball. The better condition of the ball the more expensive it is going to be.

Some companies might use letters of the alphabet with A being the best and C the worst. Others might be a bit more descriptive with their categories but the effect is the same.

At first glance, the most expensive grades probably don’t look like new.

A number of scientific and not-so-scientific studies have shown that even modern golf balls can get waterlogged. Depending on your standard of golf the drop in the performance of the ball might be noticeable to you.

Brand-new golfers probably just tend to play with any ball that they find so using lake balls won’t be that much of an issue for them in terms of performance.

Golfers with more experience tend to fall into one of two camps. Either they believe that lake balls are not that different from new ones, while the rest believe that they are a load of rubbish. At the end of the day, you probably won’t know until you try.

Remember that once you hit one shot with a golf ball it’s no longer new.

Many golfers wonder if these balls are any good and whether they should be using them.

Does Golf Ball Quality Matter?

To a large degree, it really depends on the standard of golfer we are talking about.

I know people who claim that they can’t tell the difference between a rock-hard two-piece distance ball and a high-quality premium ball. If you can’t tell the difference then making do with used balls really shouldn’t be a problem.

If you play golf to a reasonable standard then it’s more likely you could tell the difference between the performance and feel of different golf balls. In that case, you are more likely to want to stick to a particular make and model of ball that you like. If you’re the sort of player then it’s probably not worth you trying out lake balls as you value performance over everything else.

Should Beginners Use Lake Balls?

Players that are just starting out with the game of golf are probably going to be losing quite a few balls every time they play. Unless you’ve got very deep pockets it’s going to get very expensive if you play multiple times per week and you’re buying boxes of new Titleist Pro V1s.

People that are losing many balls every round might benefit from using used golf balls since they can buy a better quality ball without spending a fortune.

Reclaimed balls are collected, cleaned and re-sold at a fraction of their new price. If you are a high-handicapper or beginner then you should consider using them because:

  • They can be a lot cheaper than new balls
  • At their golfing level, the difference in performance isn’t going to make much difference to their scores

If you’re looking to keep your golfing costs down then playing with cheaper balls is an option worth looking at.

Are Reclaimed Golf Balls Affected By Being Submerged?

Studies by golf ball manufacturers have shown that long-term immersion in water will affect how the balls perform. This is because over time the ball will become waterlogged which affects how the components used will react to being hit by a golf club. Basically, you will start to lose distance if the ball is underwater for a long period of time.

Do Lake Golf Balls Lose Distance?

Companies selling reclaimed balls would like you to believe that they perform as well as new. Unfortunately, science doesn’t back them up.

A professor from Harvard university produced an academic paper explaining how balls will absorb water when submerged. It was worth noting that the covers (urethane and ionomer) used on golf balls are hydrophilic (they attract moisture). Once the core of the golf ball becomes waterlogged it won’t produce the same speed off the club face and therefore you will not hit the ball as far.

A study by Vice Golf showed that the ball which had been submerged for three months had lost around 30 yards of distance off the tee with the driver.

Should You Buy Lake Balls?

What are your options when it comes to buying golf balls? You can buy them new, refurbished or used. Given that you can find brand-new balls for as little as $10 per dozen the used or refurbished ball option may not necessarily be a great one.

So, should you buy used golf balls?

You have to weigh up what you can afford to pay against how seriously you take your golf performance and how often you lose balls. The rise of direct-to-consumer ball brands over recent years has also muddied the waters.

Several companies now offer balls with Pro V1 -like performance at around half the cost of the number one ball in golf. You would really struggle to find either used or refinished Pro V1s for much less than that price anyway.

Does a new TaylorMade TP5 perform twice as well as a used one? Probably not for the majority of golfers.

As long as the cover and dimples aren’t too badly scuffed then the aerodynamics of the ball should be reasonably good.

How Much Do Lake Balls Cost?

One reason I have never been that tempted by reclaimed golf balls is they never seem that much cheaper than the new ones were.

I’ve listed a few examples below so you can see how much you could save.

New (per doz)Grade ALogoed 
Titleist Pro V1$50$36$43
Srixon Z-Star$43$26$37
Callaway  Supersoft$25$17$21
Snell MTB Black$35
Vice Pro$29 (if you buy 5 doz)
Vice Drive$13 (if you buy 5 doz)
Cost of golf balls

For example, premium models like the Pro V1, TaylorMade TP5, Bridgestone Tour B, Callaway Chrome Soft and Srixon Z-Star are all going to retail for $40-$50 per dozen golf balls unless you are looking at older versions. These types of balls are expensive but you could easily save $10-$15 per dozen by either swapping to a logoed version or by using a DTC brand. This means you know you are getting the performance you deserve but still save a few bucks.

If you are prepared to commit to 5-dozen at a time then some companies will do deep discounts so your Pro V1 alternative is only costing you half what the real deal costs!

Do you think reclaimed Pro V1s will be better than logoed Z-Stars or brand new Snell’s. Hmm I would think not.

Expert Advice On Lake Balls

Outside of the companies that actually sell them I don’t think there are too many people standing up for the performance of lake balls.

Only you can decide whether the cost saving warrants the (possibly slight) degradation of performance. If you don’t play off a single-digit handicap then you probably wouldn’t notice much difference anyway.

Vice Golf are pretty forthright about their opinion and given their prices are less than some used balls it doesn’t make much sense to go with reclaimed balls.

Are Lake Balls Good Quality

The highest grades should be in great condition and for many players would be fine to play with. However, there is always the possibility of getting some duds. Given the price differential, I would probably play a DTC ball these days rather than a reclaimed one.

Lower grades are probably only good as practice range balls if at all.

Are Lake Golf Balls Worth The Money?

Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. Most golfers won’t notice much difference between a grade ‘A’ reclaimed ball and a new one, especially after a couple of smacks.

Looking at how much you might save it would appear that you would be as well to check out some of the direct-to-consumer brands to see if they make a ball that performs the way you like.

Given the availability of some of the new ball brands, refurbished golf balls really should be off the menu. It’s quite clear that you never know what you’ll get when you buy a refurb ball and you don’t tend to save much anyway.

Are Lake Balls Worth It: Conclusion

Accomplished golfers or those looking to improve would probably be advised to stick with new balls. Brands like Snell, Vice, Seed, OnCore and Cut are all worth looking into if you want to save some money without sacrificing the performance of the golf ball.

The ball is the one piece of golf equipment you use for every shot so you still want to get the best ball you can afford. It may be more useful than a $500 driver!

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