Golf on a budget: Why amateur golfers should be using lake golf balls

Discover everything you need to know about lake golf balls including what they are, where to buy them, and why I strongly believe more amateur golfers should be using them.

What are lake golf balls?

Lake balls, occasionally referred to as recycled balls and not to be confused with refinished balls (more on those below), are golf balls that are retrieved from golf course lakes/water hazards by teams of experienced divers. They haul thousands of balls from golf courses and resorts across the world before selling to companies who clean, grade and re-sell them to us golfers.

As lake balls are technically used golf balls (even if they’ve only been hit once before landing in the water), they are generally sold at a price considerably below that of premium golf balls, hence their popularity. The price golfers pay for lake balls very much depends on the make/model and the condition of the ball – which leads us nicely onto grading.

The importance of Ball grading

When you buy a box of golf balls from your local club professional or from a golf company like Scottsdale Golf, you’re usually buying a brand-new box of balls straight from the factory. With lake balls, however, you’re almost always going to be buying a used golf ball and for that reason, lake balls will generally be graded relative to their condition.

The problem is, with so many companies now selling lake balls due to their increased popularity as the cost of golf equipment soars, and with no universal approach to grading, what one company deems a golf ball in “perfect” condition, another may not. Though, the following grading system that Mail Order Golf use is consistent with that used by most of the leading lake ball businesses.

  • Mint – Usually the very best available on the market and have both the appearance and feel of a brand-new ball that has likely only been used once. They should be in very close to perfect condition
  • Grade A – These golf balls are usually in lightly used condition and represent excellent value for money. They may have minor surface marks, discolouration and ink marks but will have no cuts or creases. Some balls may carry logos. 
  • Very Good – Very Good quality balls that will probably have ink and slight scuff marks, with some possibly being slightly discoloured. This grade of ball is great for social games/summer nights, allowing you to save your best balls for competitive golf.
  • Practise – Practise-grade quality balls are still often in good playable condition but may have scuffs and more noticeable discolouration. Practise-grade balls will occasionally contain cuts or creases (although not Mail Order Golf’s balls).
  • Refinished – Refinished golf balls are the lowest quality golf balls. They’ve been sandblasted and repainted – more on these below.

As a rule, though, always check the grade of the ball you are buying against the seller’s own golf ball grading system before you confirm your purchase. Be sure to check out the other top tips later in this post before you rush out and buy some lake balls.  

Don't confuse 'Recycled' with 'Refurbished'

Some lake ball sellers will occasionally refer to their golf balls as ‘recycled’ but these shouldn’t be confused with ‘refinished’ golf balls. As explained above, a recycled/lake golf ball is a used golf ball that has been fished from a golf course lake/pond, cleaned up and resold. It may be lightly used but it will be the original legitimate golf ball.

Refinished golf balls, however, are completely different. They are used golf balls which have been sandblasted to remove the outer cover and repainted to look like new balls, and will usually have the word ‘Refinished’ printed on the cover. The biggest problem with refinished golf balls is that you never actually know if the ball you are using is the same ball that the re-painted cover suggests. For example, a refinished Titleist PRO V1 may well possibly be a Maxfli, Strata or Top Flite dressed up as a PRO V1 – a wolf in sheep’s clothing, if you like. You can learn more about refinished golf balls and see how well they perform (or rather don’t) in the following Rick Shiels YouTube refurbished golf ball video.

Lake Balls: The PROS AND CONS

Now that you know what lake balls are and how they’re graded, let’s take look at some of their main pros and cons.

Considerably cheaper alternative to brand-new golf balls
No way of truly guaranteeing their quality or knowing how well they will perform as you don’t know their full history and they will all be different
A wide range of makes/models/colours/grades dating back several years means there are options for everyone
Most balls (even the top-grade balls) will have random pen markings/logos and numbers will be random
Sustainability – better for the environment than making/buying new balls
Although the same make (e.g. PRO V1x) the model of balls in your order may be different (e.g. a mixture of 2020,2021 and 2022 models)

Why I use lake balls and others should too

One of the biggest reasons that many golfers refuse to buy and use lake balls is that they never truly know the history of the ball they are playing. Although it may appear in near perfect condition on the outside, the golf ball may have been lying at the bottom of a pond fully submerged in water for days, weeks, months or even years before it was retrieved by divers. Over a prolonged period of time, it is completely possible for water to penetrate the cover of the ball and potentially lead to performance issues.

The thing is, though, it’s impossible to know how long the lake balls you’ve purchased have been submerged in the water (if indeed they have), so you really can’t compare findings of performance tests on used lake balls with the balls you’ve purchased seeing as the conditions will have been different. In my experience of researching the subject of lake ball performance, I’ve discovered arguments from both sides but have never really discovered conclusive evidence that suggests lake balls are a far inferior product to new balls.

Personally, I have almost exclusively bought and used Mint/Pearl grade lake balls for the past 10+ years and have played some of my best golf during this time. My handicap has dropped from 22 to 7 and I have managed to shoot a PB of level par twice – on both occasions I was using a lake ball. Would I have shot under par had I been using a brand-new PRO V1? Who knows…but I honestly doubt it would have made an ounce of difference.

You see, I, like most other amateur golfers out there, don’t have the talent or consistency of a tour-level professional, can’t hit any shot on demand, and certainly wouldn’t be able to tell the difference performance-wise between a top-quality lake ball and a brand new golf ball out on the golf course. To be honest, I doubt many (if any) amateur golfers could tell the difference either.

So, it begs the question – why would I spend an extra £1 per ball just to use a brand-new golf ball? The answer is – I wouldn’t. The only time I use new golf balls is if I win them, have them bought for me or have credit for my club pro shop and don’t know what else to buy. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve witnessed golfers opening a brand-new pack of golf balls on the first tee only to immediately hit one or two of them OB or hack their way around the course struggling to shoot 100.

If you can afford it and want to spend your hard-earned cash on a box of brand-new golf balls at £44.99, that’s entirely up to you. However, the reality is that you’ll probably find yourself back in the pro shop stocking up again before you know it whilst the other members at your golf club enjoy using your expensive and now lost golf balls. 

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Where’s the best place to buy lake balls?

So, if you’ve gotten this far and have become a lake golf ball convert, how do you go about buying them?

There are plenty of places you can buy lake balls from including Facebook Marketplace/golf selling groups, eBay, Amazon, and various lake ball websites. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always bought my lake balls from Mail Order Golf and have never been disappointed with any of my orders. The quality of the balls has always been excellent and the service quick and accurate, hence I’ve become a repeat customer. As you can see from the image gallery below, my ‘Mint’ condition Titleist PRO V1 golf balls really were of exceptional quality.

I have recently registered as an affiliate of Mail Order Golf which means that you can save an extra 5% on any orders from them by entering the discount code ‘ANDYSGOLFBLOG’ at checkout. 

If you do decide to buy lake balls after reading this article, irrespective of where you order them from, always remember to check the seller’s golf ball grading, order the highest-grade ball you can afford and where possible, avoid refinished balls.

Final word

As always, I really hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post and that it has given you food for thought when it comes to lake balls. Feel free to drop a comment below with your thoughts on this article or lake balls in general, and be sure to check out my latest golf blog posts below. 


2 Responses

  1. The longer a ball sits in the pond the less reliable it becomes. Covers do water log, they lose compression, become unbalanced. Distance, accuracy, spin and feel is not the same from ball to ball. Nobody ever talk about these facts. I won’t use them.

    1. Fair points, William. Personally, having managed to shoot many low rounds including two level par rounds and +5 at the old course with them (I was -1 thru 12), I still don’t think they’re as useless as people make out (especially the Mint condition balls) and really will take some more convincing before I start paying an extra £2/3 for a ball thats going to shred or get lost soon enough anyway. For the vast majority of amateur golfers out there, I really don’t think they’d notice a drop in performance but would certainly notice a financial gain in swapping brand new for lake balls. That said, if they’re happy to keep spending their cash on new balls then who am I to judge!

      P.s I did cover the above points you’ve mentioned as some of the ‘cons’ towards the end of the article, which of course, are totally fair points.

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