What Is The Rarest Golf Ball In The World? We Chart 5 Contenders For The Title

1.2 billion golf balls were sold worldwide in 2022.

Several reasons can be attributed to this:

  • More people are taking up golf.
  • Manufacturers produce a variety of options to suit different golfers.
  • Faster, more effective production methods to meet demand.

But the golf balls we buy today are never likely to enter the conversation of what ultimately is the rarest golf ball in the world and coveted by collectors in years to come.

So, from a collector’s perspective, what scenarios would constitute making a golf ball rare and, at times, command a significant premium to own these golf balls?

Join us as we consider the following:

  • Critical Criteria To Be Considered The Rarest Golf Ball In The World
  • 5 Contenders To The Title Of Rarest Golf Ball In The World 
  • The Rarest And Most Expensive Golf Balls Sold At Auction

Let’s get into it!

Five golf balls sit on the grass with the words "What is the rarest golf ball" in the world?

Critical Criteria to be Considered the Rarest Golf Ball in the World

If a golf ball is to be considered as rare, it could have any one of the following features:

  • Low Production Run
  • How Old is the Golf Ball?
  • Historical Significance
  • Is the Ball Associated With a Famous Golfer?

Low Production Run

Golf balls made in limited numbers will carry greater value once they have been out of production for many years.

How old is the Golf Ball?

Golf has been played in some shape or form for over 700 years. Golf balls that are centuries old hold significant value to collectors.

Historical Significance

It’s not just the age of the ball that marks it out as historically significant.

The ball could have been used in a famous round by a player who did something that will long be remembered in golfing folklore.

This can bring newer golf balls into the equation, as we’ll see later.

Is the Ball Associated With a Famous Golfer?

Carrying on from the last point, a ball that a golfing superstar gave away can hold real value.

If the golfer signs the ball, its value and rarity can drastically increase.

A close up of a white golf ball with a black background.

5 Contenders to the Title of Rarest Golf Ball in the World

As things stand today, the 5 top contenders for the title of rarest golf ball in the world are:

5. Worthington PGA

4. Featherie Golf Balls

3. Dunlop 65 Wooden Core

2. Nike One Platinum – Platinum Ball

1. Old Tom Morris Lough Salt Balls

5. Worthington PGA

The Worthington PGA ball had a short production run in the early 1920s.

The ball is unusual in that it features square dimples alternating between raised and recessed patterns over the cover of the ball.

The ball also featured the logo of Wilson. 

Wilson was and is one of the biggest sporting brands in the world. While it’s still being determined why their logo appears on these balls, the best guess is that they offered some technical input into the design.

4. Featherie Golf Balls

Featherie golf balls are the oldest in our top 5, lending to their rarity.

The Featherie ball had its heyday from the mid-16th century to the early 17th century.

Each ball was handmade and featured a leather outer skin stuffed with feathers and left to harden before use.

These golf balls were costly in their day, so production was limited, meaning the ones that have survived are highly sought after.

3. Dunlop 65 Wooden Core

Those who have played golf for a long time are likely to have heard of the Dunlop 65 golf ball.

However, the fact that it appears on this list might raise a few eyebrows.

But there is a good reason for this.

By the outbreak of World War 2, nearly all golf balls featured a rubber core.

But rubber was in high demand to support the war effort and was rationed, meaning manufacturers had zero supply to make the core of their golf balls.

Dunlop’s solution was to make the core out of wood.

While not offering the same playing characteristics as the rubber core golf balls, it allowed golfers to play with a ball that satisfied their craving to play golf.

Production ceased after the war ended, and rubber was no longer rationed.

The rarity of this ball is that short production run from 1941 to 1945.

2. Nike One Platinum – Platinum Ball

The only modern golf ball to make the list.

Nike launched its new Platinum line of premium balls, and to mark the launch, Nike offered up a dream scenario for any golfer.

Nike produced 2000 limited edition balls that featured a platinum finish. If a golfer found one of those balls when they purchased a dozen, they would win a prize.

But rarer yet, and the ball that every golfer wanted to find, was a platinum finished ball that featured a unique stamp of their star golfer – Tiger Woods in mid-swing.

If the golfer found one of those balls, their prize was playing a golf hole with the great man himself.

Nike only produced 24 of these specially stamped balls.

1. Old Tom Morris Lough Salt Balls

In the late 19th century, Old Tom Morris was arguably the most famous golfer in the world.

Old Tom was a multiple winner of the the British Open. 

He built golf clubs, was a greenkeeper at the Old Course, and was building a growing reputation as a course designer.

In 1891, Old Tom was brought over to Donegal in Ireland to consult on the design of the Rosapenna golf course.

With some time on his hands, he took his driver and 20 of his own golf balls and drove them all into the nearby Lough Salt.

Divers in 2012 started the hunt for these elusive golf balls that were made from Gutta-Percha and dated back to the 1860s.

If any of these were found, it would, by all accounts, make it the rarest golf ball in the world.

An auction house with a crowd of people holding their hands in the air.

The Rarest and Most Expensive Golf Balls Sold at Auction

The most expensive golf memorabilia sold at auction is a set of Tiger Woods’ Titleist blades from his “Tiger Slam” season of 2000/01, which sold in April 2022 for just over $5 million.

But what about golf balls?

The three rarest, most expensive golf balls ever sold at auction to date are:

  1. Tiger Woods, Titleist Professional 90 – $186,000
  2. Bobby Jones Signed Golf Ball – $104,694
  3. Tiger Woods, Titleist Professional 90 – $64,000

1. Tiger Woods, Titleist Professional 90 – $186,000

In the fall of 1996, Tiger Woods turned professional and had a small number of tournaments he could play in to secure his full playing rights for 1997.

His first event as a professional was the Greater Milwaukee Open, and going into his final round, Woods was near the tail of the pack.

Playing the par three 14th, Woods hit a knockdown 6-iron, which landed within feet of the hole and spun in.

With the crowd going wild, Woods got up to the green and picked his ball out of the hole.

Responding to a spectator who shouted for him to throw the ball, Woods threw it to that particular spectator.

After the round, the spectator spoke to tournament officials, who got Woods to sign the ball.

The ball came up for auction in November 2022 after being authenticated by the PGA Tour.

The winning bid of $186,000 marks this as the most expensive golf ball to be sold at auction.

In those early days, Woods didn’t sign many things, so the fact that this ball does have his signature on it could also make it a contender for the rarest golf ball in the world.

2. Bobby Jones Signed Ball – $104,694

Our second entry on the list comes from another of the game’s greats – Bobby Jones.

The ball was sold at auction in September 2022 and is a Spalding Kro-Flite.

Bobby Jones was a rising star in the 1920s, reaching the pinnacle of the sport in 1930 by capturing the fabled “Grand Slam” of the day:

  • The U.S. Open
  • The U.S. Amateur
  • The British Open
  • The British Amateur

The Spalding Kro-Flite ball he used was a “square mesh” ball that preceded the dimple ball.

Players would use fountain pens to sign memorabilia. Still, the problem was the cover used on balls like the Spalding made it very difficult for the ink to stay on the ball.

This candidate for the rarest golf ball in the world is incredibly valuable as it is only one of three golf balls with a clear signature of the great man on it.

3. Tiger Woods, Titleist Professional 90 – $64,000

Following his hole-in-one at the Greater Milwaukee Open, Woods won twice in the handful of events left in the fall of 1996 to secure his full playing rights for 1997.

The question now was how he would fair in his first major as a pro, and after an opening nine holes of 40 at Augusta National, it looked like he may have flattered to deceive. 

Coming back in 30 shots to sign off on a round of 70 showed that he had the fight and ability to turn things around.

The momentum he gained from his back 9 in the first round continued into his second round, shooting 66 and following that up with an even more impressive 65 in the third round.

With a big lead starting the final round, Woods made a steady start but bogeyed the difficult 5th hole.

Walking off the green and on his way to the 6th tee, he stopped to give the ball to a young golf fan.

Woods went on to win the Masters, securing his first of 15 major championships.

The story of the golf ball came to light when it came up for auction in April 2023.

The fan decided it was time to part with his prized possession and went for auction after the ball was authenticated.

After the hammer went down, the winning bid was $64,124.

A green basket full of white golf balls.

Final Thoughts

Arguably, the rarest golf ball in the world is the one of twenty hit by Old Tom Morris into Lough Salt in 1891.

But it can be subjective.

Having a signed golf ball by Tiger Woods after his first hole-in-one as a professional or a signed Bobby Jones ball could be considered.

Are there any other contenders you know that could be considered the rarest golf ball in the world?

Up Next: Do Golf Balls Make A Difference To Your Game?

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Golf has been a passion of mine for over 30 years. It has brought me many special moments including being able to turn professional. Helping people learn to play this great game was a real highlight especially when they made solid contact with the ball and they saw it fly far and straight! Injury meant I couldn't continue with my professional training but once fully fit I was able to work on and keep my handicap in low single figures representing my golf club in local and regional events. Being able to combine golf with writing is something I truly enjoy. Helping other people learn more about golf or be inspired to take up the game is something very special.

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