Based near Houston, LostGolfBalls.com sold close to 55 million used balls in 2017. (Courtesy of LostGolfBalls.com) LostGolfBalls.com is capable of keeping 20 million balls in inventory at any one time. (Courtesy of LostGolfBalls.com) You can get one-size-fits-all gloves from LostGolfBalls.com as well as a few other accessories. (Courtesy of LostGolfBalls.com)

Should you play pre-owned or refurbished golf balls?



(This story was originally published in 2014, but was updated on April 18, 2018.)

SUGAR LAND, Texas -- If you've played golf long enough, you've probably had that "Tin Cup" moment. It might not have come on a par 5 but on a par 3 -- you basically find yourself pumping most of your ball supply into the water as you stubbornly try to reach the green over a hazard. But what's more painful, the 26 you made on the hole or the dozen golf balls you just lost? If you're like most regular golfers, it's the $30-$50 you just drowned. Of course, if they're used, it's far less painful.

But there's certainly a stigma associated with playing used golf balls. If we find a good one (such as a Titleist Pro V1) at the edge of the woods, most of us will put it in play at some point.

Yet buying recycled golf balls is beneath many players and for good reason.

After all, these golf balls are usually harvested from ponds, streams and lakes, and water has to be bad for them, right?

Well, that's true, but probably to a lesser degree than you think. And it used to be truer than it is now. The golf manufacturers have long made claims that balls recovered from water lose a significant amount of performance. But much of that was before the solid core technology and advanced cover materials used today. The truth is golf balls are so well made today that they can spend a few nights or even weeks in the water and come out just fine -- at least for casual play. (I mean, if you're playing in the U.S. Open qualifier, break out the new sleeves.)

Does that mean all recycled or refurbished balls are the same? Of course not. You have to beware of companies that might repaint inferior balls (refurbished), often distinguished by a non-genuine logo. And you don't want anything that's been underwater for a year.

The good news, these days, though, is that the companies that sell millions of recycled golf balls make their runs often in the same locations, so they're not spending much time in the water. And the balls are sold according to grade, so you get what you pay for. It also depends on where the golf balls are lost. Golf balls recovered in the saltier waters of Florida and Louisiana deteriorate a little quicker than balls found in the colder lakes and ponds of the Pacific Northwest, for example.

Buy the top-graded golf ball, and it's almost impossible to tell from new. In fact, some golfers have been known to buy high-grade used balls and put them back in their old sleeves.

LostGolfBalls.com: 650 million and counting

The largest online retailer of used golf balls is LostGolfBalls.com, located in Sugar Land, just southwest of Houston. The company was started more than 25 years ago by four former Texas A&M golfers, who used their connections in the golf industry to contract divers at various golf courses, starting primarily in Texas. The operation began in a garage using washing machines. Since 1992, LostGolfBalls.com has sold more than 650 million golf balls. Last year, sales were close to 55 million and reaches out to nearly 5 million golfers, according to Semih Dilek, director of e-commerce for LostGolfBalls.com.

The company harvests golf balls from more than 2,400 golf courses, from every state except Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota. Hawaii is on the list because shipping them back from Hawaii to Houston would be cost prohibitive. But LostGolfBalls.com does ship its product to golfers in Hawaii.

It is conceivable that you could actually buy your own golf balls back after you dunk one in a pond.

They're shipped by truck to the company's large warehouse, sorting and washing facility, which can house 20 million balls at a time.

Workers sort the balls according to grade. The best ones, AAAAA, look pretty much brand new, and the next grade down, AAAA, have minor blemishes but pretty much play like new. Independent testing in California showed that the higher-rated recycled golf balls tested like new balls, and in some cases even flew farther, which could be attributed to the dimple patterns being somewhat smoother because they're a little worn.

Titleist Pro V1s lead the pack

It's not difficult to figure out what brand of used golf balls sells the best. And that would be Titleist Pro V1s, of course. They account for approximately 40 percent of the company's sales. In fact, LostGolfBalls.com has even started to sell the Titleist AVXs, which were only available in test markets (and have already been recovered in California), as well as the new Titleist Tour Softs, which are already being recovered.

The company is also seeing a rise in Callaway Truvis balls (soccer ball patterned) as well as well as yellow, pink and other colored balls.

"We've definitely seen a rise on colored golf balls sales," says Dilek, who attributes much of that to the creative ad campaigns from companies like Volvek, Callaway and Srixon. It also helps that some tour players, especially the women and the seniors, are playing the colored balls.

In case you were wondering, LostGolfBalls.com does not harvest from the lakes at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course, where estimates are that more than 100,000 golf balls find the drink annually on the infamous par-3 17th island hole alone. But there are certainly courses that have exceptional yields.

For example, the Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston (formerly Redstone), home of the Shell Houston Open, has water that comes into play on more than half the holes. Divers recover tens of thousands from the Rees Jones-designed course.

The top producing states for LostGolfBalls.com are Texas, Florida, the Carolinas and California.

As for what you can expect to pay for your brand new Titleist ProV1 if you were to lose it and buy it back, you can find high-grade older models for about $20 in mint condition. The Callaway Truvis mint (5A) balls and Volvik (5A) go for a little more than $22 a dozen. Prices do not include shipping for orders less than $99.

The company also sells a few other products, including a one-size-fits-all golf glove ($10), bulk tees, towels, umbrellas and SuperStroke putter grips. LostGolfBalls.com, however, has no immediate plans to enter the used golf club equipment market.

Apr 18, 2018



Join the conversation

Post a comment 

George's avatar
George wrote at 2018-05-18 17:50:51+00:00:

I wonder how many used golf clubs are in the pond at #17 Sawgrass?

PM Loeb's avatar
PM Loeb wrote at 2018-05-18 16:38:05+00:00:

I have Brad tried the refurbished Pro Av 1 and most of them travel 20 to 30% shorter than new balls. I’ve had to return a large box of them

Dan McNeill's avatar
Dan McNeill wrote at 2018-05-16 23:48:40+00:00:

Have played Titleist for years/ have tried all others / keep coming back to titleist!?,

As I am now senior player / need info on " soft cover" vs reg?? I like Optic Yelliw due

To eyesight.but get chided for playing them! Also I need " inroad" ,how to swap, trade

for different shafts! How do I talk to knowledgeable Equip guy?? Would buy two doz

Refurb titlleist Optic yellow, is f avail??. Boy, I have lots of questions! Thanks!!

mkb.PruvitNow.com's avatar
mkb.PruvitNow.com wrote at 2018-05-12 00:56:51+00:00:

I'm not concerned about how a ball plays after it has been submerged in water for 2-6 weeks. How might a ball perform after it has been laying on the hot, desert floor after a week or two? Like the high dollar balls I find on courses I play in Arizona.

John Carpentieri 's avatar
John Carpentieri wrote at 2018-05-11 21:38:47+00:00:

I have bought balsa from both lost golf balls and Found Golf Balls. I find that Found golf balls had better quality ProV1 than Lost Golf Balls. Better deals too

Ron 's avatar
Ron wrote at 2018-05-11 19:40:43+00:00:

Most golfers are wasting there money with ProV-I, they are made for professionals with very fast swing speeds. Average golfer does not have enough swing speed to compress these balls---save your money and hit a softer ball----source-Ian Poulter at a golf clinic

gillyak's avatar
gillyak wrote at 2018-05-18 16:41:37+00:00:

Agreed!

Brad Watson, Miami's avatar
Brad Watson, Miami wrote at 2018-04-26 22:57:17+00:00:

I put two bols in the lake last time I played when I fell in up to my waist.

Eric's avatar
Eric wrote at 2018-04-20 01:01:08+00:00:

I have purchased several dozen of Pro V1's from lostballs. grade 5A. They are outstanding I cannot tell between the used ball and a new one. Also if you order a certain grade ball and its not up to par they will replace the ball free of charge.

Rick Redfern's avatar
Rick Redfern wrote at 2018-04-19 23:38:23+00:00:

This message incorrect in that most of the balls that I find when I am near a water hazard are Pro V and Pro V1 X. Am not ashamed topic them up and use them during my practice rounds. They are fairly consistent and actually, most are almost brand new, Yes, the Pro V1 X are normal ball to pay and practice sand and chip shots with.

ron tabano's avatar
ron tabano wrote at 2018-04-19 16:57:13+00:00:

Do never used new golf balls have a shelf life?

Bob Baty's avatar
Bob Baty wrote at 2018-04-19 16:45:30+00:00:

I have been using golf balls from Lost golf Ball.com for 2 years. I have found no difference(that I can tell) between new and used/refurbished balls. I love the Taylor Made Tour preferred X. It feels good on approach shots and off the putter. It also goes a long ways off the driver. Highly recommended.

LK's avatar
LK wrote at 2018-04-19 12:09:07+00:00:

I have bought from them a few times and I was very satisfied with the quality of the golf balls.

Leonard's avatar
Leonard wrote at 2018-04-19 08:54:18+00:00:

BECAUSE OF THE PRICE OF GOOD GOLF BALLS WE END UP USING USED BALLS. THE PROBLEM IS THEY SOMETIMES NOT GOOD ON THE GREEN, THEY CHANGE DIRECTIONS, THEY ARE WEAK IN FLIGHT EVEN LANDING. WHAT IS THE BEST THING TO DO IF YOU HAVE TO PLAY A GAME AND YOU DON'T HAVE MONEY TO BUY A SLEEVE.

Pankaj Dutt's avatar
Pankaj Dutt wrote at 2018-04-19 08:09:56+00:00:

Do you ship to India? OR have a distribution network or representative in India?

I live in Delhi and wish to purchase Ttleist Pro V1 of AAAAA quality. Please advise

TOM's avatar
TOM wrote at 2018-04-19 02:11:52+00:00:

Was this article paid for [written] by Lost Golf Balls.com?

Your mama 's avatar
Your mama wrote at 2018-04-19 12:24:40+00:00:

Would it change aything?

Meynet's avatar
Meynet wrote at 2018-04-20 04:44:58+00:00:

It would be subjective at that point so yeah...

BrandonTuckerGA's avatar
BrandonTuckerGA Staff wrote at 2018-04-20 16:31:14+00:00:

Lost Golf Balls did not pay for this content and is not an advertiser. They were cited as an industry source.

Quasimot's avatar
Quasimot wrote at 2018-04-19 01:41:14+00:00:

Does anyone know how long a golf ball is good for? In a hypothetical situation, let's say you use the exact same ball over and over round after round. When does it lose it's effectiveness?

JOEL GOODMAN's avatar
JOEL GOODMAN wrote at 2018-04-19 01:24:42+00:00:

I LIVE ON A SOUTH FLORIDA GOLF COURSE, PLAY 5 DAYS A WEEK. CURRENT INDEX 8.6 AND HAVE NOT PURCHASED A NEW BALL IN THE PAST 18 YEARS. I PLAY WHATEVER I RECOVER FROM THE CANAL IN MY BACK YARD THAT SEPARATES MY YARD FROM THE GOLF COURSE.. UNLESS YOU ARE A PLUS HANDICAP PLAYER YOU WILL NEVER KNOW THE DIFFERENCE IN A "REPURPOSED?" BALL AND A brand new one.

Tigerone's avatar
Tigerone wrote at 2018-05-01 02:10:59+00:00:

And that's why ur not a scratch golfer

JOEL714@GMAIL.COM's avatar
JOEL714@GMAIL.COM wrote at 2018-05-02 01:24:01+00:00:

are you? golf balls do not make you a better player. If that were the case all Titleist and callaway ball players would be scratch. Fact sre only 10% of all players regularly break 100

Dennis 's avatar
Dennis wrote at 2018-04-19 00:49:09+00:00:

Have purchased A LOT of used balls from Golfballs.com and live them. NEVER a problem. Will never buy another new ball!

Curt's avatar
Curt wrote at 2018-04-19 00:28:08+00:00:

I find 2000 balls per year, 30 % of which are Pro Vs . Our private Pete Dye course is used as a stage 1qualifier for the USOpen and has a lot of water interestingly I find about 40% PV 100s in spite of the fact most of our players are 65 and older with slow swing speeds . Guess they like the color because they sure can’t compress that ball. Since I was a kid a have loved finding balls. Now my buddies buy them for $12 to 15 a dozen . Also interesting that if Pro Vs are in the water too long, they will bubble up.

Bob 's avatar
Bob wrote at 2018-04-18 23:58:20+00:00:

I buy callaway chrome soft AAAA and they’re great!

Angelito305's avatar
Angelito305 wrote at 2018-04-18 23:14:59+00:00:

I grew up on a golf course and yes we dove for balls as kid ,and there's not a dam thing wrong with probably 75% of the balls since most on the balls retrieve are from lousy or drunk golfers.

bud's avatar
bud wrote at 2018-04-19 00:53:57+00:00:

I resemble that remark.

TOM's avatar
TOM wrote at 2018-04-19 02:13:23+00:00:

You "fish" for 2,000 balls a year? Get a life, play more golf...:)

SV's avatar
SV wrote at 2018-04-18 23:14:24+00:00:

I have purchased from LostGolfBalls.com and it predecessor, Knetgolf.com for years. I do not buy new any more. I have purchased Titleist NXT Tour and Tour S, Srixon AD333 and Qstar and various Callaway mint condition balls and you can not tell them from new in both looks and performance.

John's avatar
John wrote at 2018-04-18 23:13:37+00:00:

I've purchased used golf balls in the past and occasionally have found that some of the balls aren't completely round. Golf is hard enough on its own. Try playing it with a ball that isn't round.

JP Willow's avatar
JP Willow wrote at 2018-05-11 21:24:31+00:00:

I suggest not buying the oval shaped balls in the first place, or throw them away once you find them!!

cigarsmoker's avatar
cigarsmoker wrote at 2018-04-18 22:32:54+00:00:

I have purchased from LostGolfBalls.com twice and will continue to do so. I buy "near mint" and have not had a problem with any of them. I recently purchased 96 Callaway balls and they are excellent!

George G's avatar
George G wrote at 2018-04-18 22:29:34+00:00:

Has anyone mentioned how golf balls perform if they are sitting in the garage for a year or 2?

RD's avatar
RD wrote at 2018-04-19 00:01:08+00:00:

Good question. I have probably 6 Dozen brand new balls in my garage. In Canada, so don't get super hot, wondering if they decay over time.

Bubba's avatar
Bubba wrote at 2018-05-18 16:47:15+00:00:

Still good - Best if you kept them in the freezer all year around!

Steve Cantin's avatar
Steve Cantin wrote at 2018-04-19 00:35:06+00:00:

About 8 years ago, purchased many cases of ProVI's ( another of my less lucid and compulsive pourchases ) I am down to my last box and have purchased the newer motels since - comparant three old against three new on a par 3 at dus last year - absolutely no difference whatsoever..

George G's avatar
George G wrote at 2018-04-19 00:39:19+00:00:

That is good to hear. I wonder if other type balls will be the same? I assume so... Thanks, Steve

Steve Cantin's avatar
Steve Cantin wrote at 2018-04-19 00:58:06+00:00:

Have no idea of other brands - but convinced with the ProV1 - but they were always stored in my basement ( well heated and ventilated ) After purchasing a 10 year supply of Pro V's, my wife threatened to slash the tires of my car if I dared try anoher brand. . ( apologize for Mac French corrector )

George G's avatar
George G wrote at 2018-04-19 01:01:19+00:00:

All I Cal say is it takes a lot of balls to buy that many balls lol.

HotSpotts's avatar
HotSpotts wrote at 2018-04-18 21:07:11+00:00:

Nice article Mike. I purchase a few dozen AAAAA DT Solo's/now TruSofts at the start of each season. That being said I have found that you really need to feel and inspect each ball closely at the time of delivery. There's always a few that feel "out of round" - may have hit a cart path/rock or other hard surface. In fact one order I sent back a full dozen and there were a few more in that batch I considered suspect.

An extremely good value but I'd estimate between 5pct and 10pct of the balls purchased I wouldn't put into normal play or would have/have returned.

DPV's avatar
DPV wrote at 2018-04-18 21:03:19+00:00:

I gave a friend of mine (who loses a lot of balls) a bag of about 40 balls I had found as we arrived at the club house. I laughed when he said "Thanks, but what will I use for the back nine ?"

Bill Brandenburg's avatar
Bill Brandenburg wrote at 2018-04-18 20:44:01+00:00:

I give all my used and found balls to our teaching pro to give to the kids.

KDubb's avatar
KDubb wrote at 2018-04-18 20:41:00+00:00:

I buy from this company all the time. I buy the near mint recycled ProV1x ,not refurbished and I can tell you this , they are the real deal. My friends and I split them all the time. Love them, great ball,

Bob's avatar
Bob wrote at 2018-04-18 20:37:42+00:00:

I'm kind of a dummie, what's the dif between the V1 and the V1x?

MikeBaileyGA's avatar
MikeBaileyGA Staff wrote at 2018-04-18 20:39:53+00:00:

In a nutshell, the Pro V1x doesn't spin as much as the Pro V1

Bob's avatar
Bob wrote at 2018-04-18 20:45:18+00:00:

Thanks.

Curt's avatar
Curt wrote at 2018-04-19 00:30:40+00:00:

Also the swing speed to compress a 100 should be well above 100

Fred's avatar
Fred wrote at 2018-04-19 00:35:14+00:00:

diff is that proV is a 3 layered ball while X is 4 layers. IMHO, layers provide versitility atound the course, ie. close to green for good spin off tee for less spin

Kevin Augustine 's avatar
Kevin Augustine wrote at 2018-04-18 20:42:57+00:00:

Pro V1x are for higher swing speeds

Bob's avatar
Bob wrote at 2018-04-18 20:46:49+00:00:

Thanks.

Dan's avatar
Dan wrote at 2018-04-18 20:31:09+00:00:

My question, about the old balls I have, is this: how can you tell how good or bad it is?

MikeBaileyGA's avatar
MikeBaileyGA Staff wrote at 2018-04-18 20:41:30+00:00:

If you're talking about balls you find, it's difficult, but generally the longer they've been out there (e.g., you might have found them buried in the woods), the less they will perform. I can tell you from personal experience, the high-grade balls from LostGolfBalls.com seemed to perform like new because they basically are.

Dan's avatar
Dan wrote at 2018-04-18 20:50:44+00:00:

Is there a compression tester for lay use?

JP Willow's avatar
JP Willow wrote at 2018-05-11 21:27:48+00:00:

Yep. Your driver!

frank's avatar
frank wrote at 2018-04-18 20:29:06+00:00:

I totally understand the purchase of recycled golf balls......but I find so many others while I'm looking for my own that the need is just not there lol

Carl's avatar
Carl wrote at 2018-04-18 20:18:05+00:00:

Pro v1's are a great lake ball to buy. Because they're so good they don't lose much performance when sold as a used lake ball.

Much cheaper option.


Related Links


Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.