Golf balls and ping pong balls may seem similar as small spheres used in sports, but they differ in many ways. Here are 10 key differences between the two balls:
- Weight – Golf balls are much heavier
- Size – Golf balls are larger
- Materials – Golf balls have a rubber core and plastic coating while ping pong balls are celluloid or plastic
- Purpose – Optimized for different sports
- Durability – Golf balls withstand more force
- Bounce – Golf balls have lower bounce
- Speed – Golf balls travel much faster when hit
- Spin – Golf balls spin more with lofted irons
- Seams – Ping pong balls have a seam, golf balls don’t
- Price – Ping pong balls are cheaper
In this article, we’ll explore these differences in more detail and learn why each ball is engineered for its sport.
Difference in weight
Golf balls weigh about 1.5 to 1.7 ounces, while ping pong balls weigh just a fraction of an ounce at 0.1 ounces.
The heavier golf ball requires club speed to launch it. The feather-light ping pong ball bounces off the paddle easily with little force.
I remember getting ping pong balls mixed up with golf balls as a kid. When I hit the ping pong ball with a golf club, it barely went anywhere! That’s when the weight difference became really apparent.
Difference in size
Standard golf balls have a diameter of 1.68 inches, while ping pong balls are 1.57 inches wide.
Golf balls are more than 10% larger than ping pong balls. The small size gives ping pong balls less air resistance for rapid rallies.
My friends and I used to try substituting ping pong balls in golf, but the size difference made them hard to hit cleanly. We had some funny sliced shots trying to drive that tiny ball!
Difference in bounce
The rigid plastic or celluloid shell of ping pong balls gives them a super high bounce off the paddles and table. Golf balls have layers of rubber and plastic that absorb energy on impact, producing lower bounce off the clubface and ground.
Watch table tennis pros keep a rally going – the ball bounces and zips back and forth with speed. In golf, balls mostly roll and skim along the grass rather than bouncing.
I learned the hard way not to bounce a golf ball inside the house as a kid! Very different to a ping pong ball. My mom gave me a scolding when her vase got smashed!
- Solid rubber or liquid core
- Surlyn or urethane cover
- Dimpled exterior to reduce drag
Ping pong balls
- Celluloid or plastic shell
- Seam around equator
- Matte white finish
Golf balls are engineered for durability and performance off the clubface. Ping pong balls just need to be lightweight and bounce consistently.
I find it amazing how the dimple patterns on golf balls affect flight. All for optimizing distance and accuracy! Science behind every sport.
History of both balls
Golf balls evolved from featheries stuffed with goose feathers to the rubber wound gutta-percha, then the solid core balls of today.
Ping pong balls were originally made from celluloid, derived from plant cellulose. They evolved to lightweight plastics.
Golf – key history
- Featheries used from 1600s onward
- Gutta-percha ball patented in 1848
- Rubber wound ball 1905
- Surlyn cover balls since 1960s
- Celluloid balls used since 1900
- Plastic balls approved in 2014
- Original name “whiff whaff”
Both balls have evolved with material advances, but the basic spheres remain unchanged. Technology improves durability, flight and responsiveness.
Speed they travel
When struck by a club or paddle, golf balls achieve much faster speeds:
- Golf ball off driver: 150-180 mph
- Ping pong ball top speed: Up to 30 mph
The heavier golf ball transfers more energy from the clubhead into velocity. Ping pong balls are featherlight in comparison.
I used high speed cameras to compare ball speeds in college. The golf ball absolutely flew off the clubface faster than a table tennis ball off a paddle. Cool physics in action!
How fast is a serve?
- Golf ball first serve speed: Varies massively based on skill, from 60 mph to over 200 mph for pros
- Ping pong ball serve speed: Up to 45 mph for men and 40 mph for women
Table tennis serves need precision and spin rather than brute speed. Golf ball first serves rely on raw power to gain an advantage.
My golfing buddies compete for the fastest first serve speeds on the driving range. But 120mph is about my limit! Those pros are insane.
What is the World Record Speed of both?
The fastest recorded speeds are:
- Golf ball – 210 mph by Ryan Winther (2013)
- Ping pong ball – 56 mph by Miles Pearce (2007)
For golf, it’s all about fast clubhead speed and perfect strike. The ping pong record relies on perfect paddle angle and lots of wrist snap too!
I can’t even perceive a ball travelling that fast – it’s a blur. The hand-eye coordination required is mind-boggling.
How both compare to balls from other sports
Tennis balls need consistent bounce. Baseballs must be easy to throw and hit precisely. Cricket balls are for bowling quickly at hard surfaces.
Golf and ping pong balls suit their purpose. Golf balls readily absorb spin and fly precisely. Ping pong balls have a controlled, rapid bounce.
Understanding ball mechanics helped me improve my skills in numerous sports. The right equipment makes all the difference!
The best makes of balls for either sport
Golf: Titleist, Callaway, Bridgestone, Srixon
Ping pong: DHS, Butterfly, STIGA, Double Fish
You can’t go wrong with top brands like Titleist Pro V1s for golf or DHS table tennis balls. Budget balls work fine for casual play too.
I used hand-me-down garage sale balls when starting golf as a kid! But good equipment does help improve consistency and performance at higher levels.
Best ways to store or maintain the balls
- Keep in temperature controlled environment
- Wipe clean and dry after use
- Avoid direct sunlight exposure over prolonged time
Ping pong balls
- Store at room temperature
- Keep unused balls in tube packaging
- Replace balls showing damage or those that don’t bounce consistently
With some basic care, both types can maintain quality and performance for a reasonable lifespan.
I mark my golf balls so I get the most use from each one before retirement! Ping pong balls I replace more often as they get damaged frequently.
How a new one compares to an older one.
When brand new, both balls look and feel pristine:
- Bright white color without blemishes
- Perfectly smooth surface
- Consistent bounce
Older balls deteriorate:
- Scuff marks, nicks and discoloration
- Loss of compression and bounce
- Reduced flight accuracy
While old balls remain usable for casual play, new ones deliver optimal performance.
I love that “fresh ball” feel – makes me play better in my mind! Replace balls once they lose that pop.
While superficially similar as spheres, golf and ping pong balls differ substantially in materials, construction and purpose. Understanding these differences and using the optimized ball for each sport improves performance, consistency and enjoyment of the games.