Recycled Golf Balls: Are They A Good Alternative To Premium Balls?

Being a golfer at times can be very expensive.

The latest top-of-the-range drivers cost over $600. A mid-range set of irons costs in the region of $1500, and specialist wedges are priced towards $200 per club.

Golf balls are also something that can burn cash in our pockets. Want a dozen Titleist Pro V1s – you’ll be parting with $60.

Paying that much money for a dozen balls is even more painful if they are all quickly lost.

But there are alternatives out there for the budget-conscious golfer. There are cheaper new balls that can be purchased, but another option is recycled golf balls.

In this article, we’ll uncover the world of recycled golf balls and help you decide if they are worth investing in.

To do that, we’ll help you with:

  • What Are Recycled Golf Balls?
  • How Much Do Recycled Golf Balls Cost?
  • Do Recycled Golf Balls Perform Well?
  • New Golf Ball Alternatives 
  • Good Ways To Get The Most Out Of Used Golf Balls

Let’s get into it!

Recycled Golf Balls: Are They A Good Alternative To Premium Balls? 1

What Are Recycled Golf Balls?

People will hunt for golf balls that get lost in trees, thick rough, or bushes. 

Divers are specially commissioned to recover balls from lakes and other deep bodies of water on the golf course.

Once these balls have been recovered, they can be re-sold to golfers through three routes:

  • Recycled Golf Balls
  • Lake Balls
  • Refinished/Refurbished Golf Balls

Recycled Golf Balls

Recycled golf balls fall into two camps.

The first is where a ball is re-sold in the condition it was found in.

The second is where the golf ball is cleaned with a standard cleaning agent like washing-up liquid and warm water.

One potential issue with these golf balls is that they can still feature another golfer’s sharpie makings they’ve put on the golf ball before losing it.

Recycled Golf Balls can be sold individually or grouped in dozens or more for resale.

A white golf ball floats in a lake.

Lake Balls

Lake balls have been around as long as lakes have been on golf courses! The golf balls fall into a grading system, with the best being described as pearl balls.

Golf Ball Grading Guide:

It’s important to have an idea of the golf ball grading guide to know what recycled balls you’re dealing with.

Pearl balls are considered to have only been hit a couple of times and show only the very lightest of use.

Golf ball grades classed as a grade A will be deemed to have a bit more use but, like the pearl balls, will have very minor signs of wear.

At the other end of the spectrum, balls defined as grade C will have heavier wear with more noticeable scuffs and scratches on the surface and wear showing on the ball’s logos.

Lake balls tend to be sold as a dozen and can be grouped by manufacturer and model.

As an example, if you like the Srixon Z-Star ball but need more funds to buy a dozen new ones, chances are you’ll be able to find the lake ball equivalent.

A white golf ball is getting cleaned by a golf ball cleaner.

Refinished/Refurbished Golf Balls

Refinished or refurbished golf balls undergo a process of having their original markings and paint removed chemically before applying a new layer of paint and having all the correct logos re-applied to the ball.

A buffing process takes place to remove scrapes and scuffs before fresh paint is applied to the areas of the ball that have been worked on.

How Much Do Recycled Golf Balls Cost?

Costs can vary for recycled balls, but the price difference will generally reflect the quality of the balls you buy.

Looking on Amazon, a bag containing a dozen mixed brands of balls will cost $19.95, meaning one ball is valued at $1.66.

We’ve mentioned that lake balls can be grouped by manufacturer and model, but they are also grouped by the golf ball grades given to the ball. 

So, a dozen pearl-grade TaylorMade TP5X balls cost $30, or $2.50 per ball.

Amazon also has a pack containing 36 refurbished TaylorMade TP5 balls for $55, which costs $1.53 per ball. 

Notice that these are the cheapest per-ball option, reflecting that they aren’t the best quality.

A man wearing red hits a golf ball with a driver.

Do Recycled Golf Balls Perform Well?

In some respects, these golf balls can perform well.

Lake and recycled golf balls hold up favorably compared to brand-new golf balls, with no discernible loss in distance and spin.

Golf balls that have been refinished/refurbished have a different story to tell.

When the original paint is stripped back, and scratches and scuffs are buffed out of the ball, the original dimple pattern can likely be damaged.

Manufacturers invest millions of dollars in designing aerodynamic dimple patterns that optimize the ball’s spin, launch, and trajectory, so if there is any damage to the dimple pattern, the ball’s performance is likely compromised.

Adding a fresh layer of paint to the ball can also harm the ball’s performance, which not only impacts distance but the ball won’t perform well when chipping or putting.

The abrasive effect of sand from hitting a bunker shot will also likely remove the ball’s refurbished finish easily.

One final point on refurbished/refinished balls is that when they are re-painted, the paint used can add weight to the ball. A heavier golf ball certainly won’t fly as far as a normal golf ball.

A pile of white golf balls with the word golf on them.

New Golf Ball Alternatives

While there is no disputing the performance of a Titleist Pro V ball backed up by its numerous wins on professional tours worldwide, we don’t like it much if we shell one off into trouble and lose it.

So, if we want to spend less money, are there alternatives we can purchase that offer performance without the cost?

The answer to this is definitely yes.

All the major ball manufacturers offer quality golf balls that provide plenty of distance with good levels of stopping power for a fraction of the cost.

To highlight the point, you can purchase a dozen Titleist Velocity balls for $31 or a dozen TaylorMade Soft Response balls for $27.

That means the Titleist Velocity costs $2.60 per ball, and the TaylorMade Soft Response is $2.25 per ball.

By comparison, a dozen Titleist Pro V1s, at $60, works out at $5 per ball.

The Titleist Velocity and TaylorMade Soft Response balls mark a great entry ball for new golfers who are generally looking to maximize their distance and aren’t too worried about stopping power or feel.

The Titleist ball is available in various colors if you think white is boring, and the TaylorMade Soft Response balls have a design pattern that aids alignment on the green and off the tee.

A pile of old golf balls with dirt on them.

Good Ways To Get The Most Out Of Used Golf Balls

Lake balls and recycled golf balls can be used without any discernible drop-offs in performance compared to brand-new balls.

An optimal time to use balls like these would be if you play a course that in the summer months has punishing almost U.S Open-style rough where balls can easily be lost.

Protecting your precious brand-new premium balls can be offset using the same brand and model but as recycled or lake balls.

Another great option is that real nemesis hole where you always lose a ball.

This could be a par three, where the green is protected by water, or a demanding par four, where jungle lies the entire length of one side of the hole.

Switching out your favorite premium ball for a lake ball or recycled ball of the same brand could be wise if you subsequently play the hole without losing a ball.

But what happens if you do purchase some refinished/refurbished golf balls?

We’ve already established that the performance of these golf balls is different from the equivalent new balls.

But that doesn’t mean to say that these balls don’t have any use for golfers, so let’s look at some scenarios where they would be helpful.

Two golfers are at the driving range with a pile of golf balls.

Practice Balls

Some practice facilities at golf clubs allow you to use your own golf balls. 

This is where recycled golf balls are worthwhile because we may use the time to work on swing technicalities, meaning we aren’t focused on the golf ball’s performance.

It only matters a little if we lose a recycled ball, too. The only downside is that after we’ve hit all the balls, you must go and collect them!

If we are working on chipping and putting, it’s better to practice with balls close to what you use on the course to keep spin and feel consistent with what you get on the golf course.

Practice Rounds

Following a theme similar to the practice range, recycled golf balls can be helpful for playing a practice round.

If you are receiving lessons, the professional might tell you to work on new drills to help your game when you go and play.

The course represents an opportunity to ingrain the output from the lesson. This might throw up a few bad shots, leading to losing golf balls.

Using recycled golf balls means you won’t be too concerned about losing any as you play a few holes, embedding new swing thoughts into your game.

A mix of golf balls spread out on the grass.

Final Thoughts

Golf balls can be costly. When we lose one out on the course, we are frustrated because of the lousy shot we’ve just hit but equally frustrated at the monetary value of the ball we’ve just lost!

Many great new golf balls are available that are cheaper and offer exceptional performance if you are more budget-conscious.

Recycled golf balls are an even cheaper option if you want to watch your pennies and can perform as well as their brand-new counterparts.

The major caveat for some refinished/refurbished golf balls is that they will have a distinctive performance disadvantage over new golf balls, given the treatments they undergo before being re-sold.

Like all departments of golf equipment, every variety of golfer is catered for when it comes to golf balls.

You can have everything at a premium cost, or if you are more on a budget, there are plenty of great options out there you can purchase and still enjoy your game!

If you are a relatively new golfer and you are looking to improve over the winter, check out this great article on golf lessons.

Photo of author
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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