Recycled Balls vs. New Balls

Updated: Apr 30

Published in Hakker Golf Magazine

May 2021

Link to Article


I am sure there have been times when you needed (or wanted) golf balls. Let’s be honest…it’s impossible to play a round of golf without a ball! But, as you perused the big box chains like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Golf Galaxy or PGA Tour Superstore, you most likely saw a price tag that was a little hard to swallow. Especially if you are a golfer who tends to lose a few balls per round.


A brand-new dozen balls can cost upwards of $50.00 (USD) per dozen. That is over $4.00 per golf ball! If you lose 3 balls per round, you just threw away $12.00 only for them to be recovered by golf ball recovery companies, or golf course residents, who will then sell them for about $1.50 per ball. That is $4.50 profit for the finder. There is an enormous secondary market for used golf balls. In fact, there is an estimated 400 million lost golf balls that are ready to be found. If we use the figures from above and conservatively estimate that 10% of recovered balls are in mint condition, that is a revenue stream of $6.0 million dollars!


Many of us will come across a Pro V1, a TP5, or a Tour B XS when searching for our errant shots. And the chances of putting that ball into play is more likely than not. This is where recycled balls come into play. You may have noticed these balls at your local golf course, or an internet pro shop, and it made you think “Why would I play a used ball”? But playing recycled balls is not a bad idea for the cost conscience golfer. And, according to studies by websites like practical-golf.com, golfpass.com, and mygolfspy.com, there is a minimal chance these recycled balls will lose any performance capabilities if they have been submerged for less than one year. Also, balls that are found in colder water (think Michigan) can be submerged longer than one year. Due to the solid core technology and advanced cover materials used today, golf balls can withstand weeks in the water and come out just fine – at least for casual play. But, if you are playing a PGA qualifier, break out the new sleeve!


Golf ball recovery companies generally have contracts with various courses throughout their area and often make their runs in the same locations. This means the balls are not spending a lot of time in the water. And, if balls are recovered from courses like Pebble Beach, chances are they are top brand balls. After recovery, the balls are cleaned and put back into play. But be sure to ask how they are cleaned because using harsh chemicals can break down the outer layer quicker than if someone were to use soap and hot water. After the cleaning has been completed, recovery companies usually sell them at wholesale prices to pro shops which are then sold back to people like us. So now we are paying for a golf ball twice!


Recycled balls come in various grades and the higher the grade or brand, the higher the price. Some golf ball recovery companies differ with their grading scales, but the balls are mainly placed into four categories. The grading list below will give you an idea of what you could expect from a used ball so look for these grades when purchasing your next dozen. Ordinarily, grades 5A and 4A will be tour caliber balls like Bridgestone, Callaway, Titleist, and Taylormade.


· 5A – “Mint”

o Appear and feel similar to a new ball (often called “one hit wonders”)

o Will show no or very little wear.

o Player pen markings or corporate logos of all shapes and sizes can be present.


· 4A – “Near Mint”

o Condition is similar to a ball that has been played for a few holes.

o Player pen markings corporate logos of all shapes and sizes can be present.

o Slight cosmetic blemishes, discoloration or loss of luster are possible.


· 3A – “Good”

o Free of cuts but may have slight scuffs, blemishes, minor discoloration, and smudged print.

o Higher-grade x-outs and practice models may be included.

o Player pen markings corporate logos of all shapes and sizes can be present.


· Shag – “Hit-away”

o May show excessive wear including cuts, abrasions, missing print, and major discoloration.

o Balls may include low tier brands like range balls, Top Flite, Slazenger, Dunlop, and others.

o Great for practicing in the backyard or hitting over water.


If you still find yourself debating whether you should use a recycled golf ball, ask yourself this question. Do you put a new ball down on the course for every shot? When a ball is hit once, it is now classified as a used ball. If you do insist that used golf balls are not for you, then we thank you for being one of our suppliers!



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