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Old Golf Ball Vs New Golf Ball – 11 Differences

Golf balls have come a long way over the years. From the old gutta-percha balls to the multi-layer urethane covered balls of today, there are some major differences that affect performance. Here are 11 key ways that old and new golf balls differ:


  • Old golf balls were much heavier, often weighing over 1.5 ounces.
  • Modern balls weigh around 1.4 ounces. The lighter weight helps increase distance.


  • Old golf balls were larger, up to 1.68 inches in diameter.
  • New regulation size is 1.68 inches but some balls are smaller (1.6-1.66 inches) for more control.


  • Old balls were made of gutta-percha sap – basically a form of rubber.
  • New balls use synthetic materials like urethane, ionomer resins, and hybrid covers.


  • Old balls were either solid rubber or had a wound rubber core.
  • Modern balls have multi-layer cores and covers for optimal performance.


  • Old balls had bumpy, hammered “bramble” patterns.
  • New balls use precisely designed dimple patterns for aerodynamics.


  • Old wound balls would lose their compression and shape over time.
  • New balls retain their properties much longer before wear occurs.


  • Old balls produced low ball speeds and short yardages.
  • Thanks to better materials and construction, new balls fly farther.


  • Old balls had minimal spin, making shaping shots difficult.
  • New balls generate spin around the greens for shot control.


  • Old balls had inconsistent quality, leading to erratic shots.
  • Consistent materials in new balls lead to more precise shots.


  • Old balls were relatively cheap, selling for $0.50 to $1 each.
  • New premium balls can cost $4-5 each or even more per dozen.

One ball play

  • Old balls cut and bruised easily, requiring constant replacement.
  • New balls are much more durable, allowing use for multiple holes.

So in summary, the new golf balls outperform old balls in nearly every way – from distance and spin to durability and consistency. While old gutta-percha balls have an antique charm, modern golf balls are lightyears ahead in terms of performance. The advanced materials and construction lead to longer drives, better control, and more enjoyable golf.

Difference in Weight

The weight of a golf ball may seem insignificant, but it has a noticeable impact on performance. Old golf balls weighed over 1.5 ounces, often up to 1.62 ounces. This heavy weight restricted distance. When wound rubber golf balls were introduced in the early 1900s, they weighed slightly less at 1.55-1.6 ounces.

Modern golf balls weigh around 1.4 to 1.5 ounces on average. For example, Titleist Pro V1 balls weigh 1.4 ounces while Callaway Chrome Soft balls are 1.39 ounces. This lighter weight helps increase clubhead speed and ball velocity for more distance. It also reduces fatigue when hitting hundreds of balls at the driving range.

So technology has shaved off about 0.2 ounces over time. This lighter golf ball flies farther, spins properly on iron shots, and allows better control and feel. Distance with the old 1.6 ounce balls could suffer by 5% or more compared to today’s featherlight models.

Difference in Size

In addition to weight, the size of golf balls has also changed over time. Old golf balls could be as large as 1.68 inches in diameter, the maximum allowed by the rules. This large size negatively affected ball flight.

In the 1930s, wound golf balls emerged that were smaller in size. They typically measured between 1.62 and 1.68 inches across.

Today’s golf balls vary in size more than ever before. Many pro-level balls are now 1.6 to 1.66 inches in diameter to reduce drag and increase distance. However, some brands like Wilson Golf make balls at regulation 1.68 inches for high ball flight.

The smaller ball size provides pros and skilled amateurs with an aerodynamic advantage for more yards. But for average golfers, the larger 1.68 inch size promotes better launch, slower spin, and more forgiveness.

Difference in Bounce

Old golf balls from the 19th century had simple, bumpy surface patterns. But they did not feature proper golf ball dimples like modern balls. These old balls lacked the backspin-reducing “bounce” effect that dimples create.

Modern balls have between 300 to 500 dimples precisely arranged for an aerodynamic effect. The dimples reduce drag on the downward portion of flight to provide lift and carry. Well-designed dimples allow backspin to bleed off to create a penetrating ball flight.

Testing shows that dimpled balls like the Titleist Pro V1 fly significantly farther than non-dimpled smooth balls. The superior aerodynamics from dimples are a game changer, especially into the wind. Old balls with primitive patterns simply could not match the performance of today’s precisely engineered models.

Materials Used

Golf ball materials have evolved substantially, from natural gutta-percha to synthetic polymers and urethane blends.

Old golf balls were made from a rubbery sap harvested from gutta-percha tropical trees. This natural material worked well enough for early golf, but was prone to scuffing and lost its roundness over time.

In the early 1900s, wound rubber golf balls overtook gutta-percha. A rubber core was tightly wrapped with rubber windings and coated with balata or gutta-percha. This became the signature golf ball for decades.

Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, manufacturers shifted to synthetic materials. E.I. DuPont’s Surlyn ionomer resin paired with solid polymer cores produced the first durable two-piece golf balls.

Today’s top golf balls use advanced materials like urethane covers for soft feel and peak performance. The latest Titleist Pro V1 features a urethane cover, ionomer casing layer, and high-speed core. Callaway Chrome Soft balls blend a urethane cover and graphene-infused core.

History of Both Balls

Here is a brief history of old and new golf balls:

Old Golf Balls

  • 1500s: Leather balls stuffed with feathers were used. Hard to produce and very expensive.
  • 1600s: Leather balls packed with compressed air debut. Easier to make but prone to splits.
  • 1848: Gutta-percha balls arrive. Cheap and stable but loses shape.
  • 1898: Wound rubber thread golf balls created by Coburn Haskell. More spring and distance.
  • 1900s: Wound gutta balls dominate golf for decades with balata covers.

New Golf Balls

  • 1960s: Two-piece Surlyn balls introduced by DuPont and Spalding. More cut-proof.
  • 1980s: Multi-layer balls improve performance over two-piece balls.
  • 1996: Solid multi-layer balls with urethane covers match wound ball spin and feel.
  • 2000s: Modern four to five-layer golf balls optimize launch, spin, feel, and durability.

Speed They Travel

The velocity that golf balls travel at has increased substantially thanks to new materials and construction.

Old golf balls had relatively low speeds off the clubface. The heavy gutta-percha models likely only reached speeds of around 100 mph or less. Wound balata balls improved to around 150 to 160 mph on drives.

Today’s golf balls attain extremely high speeds, optimized by their light weight, rubber cores, and thin urethane covers. When struck by pros, new balls achieve over 170 mph off the driver. Tests by Golf Monthly showed the Titleist Pro V1 reaches 177 mph at peak speed.

Faster speeds mean longer distance on the course. Trackman launch monitors measure ball speed, showing tangible gains of 20 mph or more with new vs old balls. Newer golf ball designs continue to push the limits of speed through optimized cores and dimple patterns.

How Fast is a Serve?

When it comes to pure speed, golf balls are put to shame by tennis balls. The world record for fastest tennis serve is 163.7 mph by Australian Samuel Groth.

Even recreational tennis players can hit first serves over 100 mph quite easily. The pop and compression of a pressurized tennis ball, struck by a racket with a large strike face, allows tremendous speed.

Golf balls are constructed very differently and are designed for compression only at impact. The small clubface does not impart energy into the ball nearly as efficiently as a broad tennis racket.

So while golf ball materials affect speed, tennis balls will easily reach 50+ mph faster speeds during play. Of course, golf balls fly much farther, since they are meant for distance. Tennis balls are focused on precision, speed and spin over a small space.

What is the World Record Speed of both?

Speaking of world records, here are the fastest speeds ever recorded for a golf ball and tennis ball:

  • Fastest golf ball speed: 253 mph – Achieved by Canadian Jason Zuback on a special track in 2011. Far exceeds normal in-play speed.
  • Fastest tennis serve: 163.7 mph – By Australian player Samuel Groth in 2012 during a Challenger event.

While special equipment can drive a golf ball over 250 mph, real-world drive speeds top out around 190 mph at most. Tennis serves will likely never exceed the 170 mph range either.

So the 100+ mph difference seen by recreational players is lessened at the highest levels. But the tennis ball’s unique construction and compression still allows it to handily outpace golf balls for speed generated by an implement (racket or club).

How both compare to balls from other sports

Compared to projectiles from other sports, golf and tennis balls fall right around the middle in speed:

  • Baseballs: 100-105 mph batted, 100+ mph pitched
  • Golf balls: 130-180 mph with driver
  • Tennis balls: 100-163 mph serve
  • Soccer balls: 70 mph kicks, corner kicks 35-55 mph
  • Volleyballs: 78 mph spike speed
  • Basketballs: 25 mph thrown, 50 mph shot speed

Golf and tennis rely on specialized balls for their unique spin, compression, and aerodynamic characteristics. So their speeds from club or racket easily exceed balls hit by hand or foot.

But they can’t match the velocities of compact, dense baseballs driven by bats, allowing softball sizes to reach 100+ mph off the bat.

The best makes of balls for either sport

For golf, popular brands known for cutting edge technology and proven performance are Titleist and Callaway:

  • Titleist Pro V1 – The #1 ball in golf. Tours’ choice. Perfect balance, distance, short game spin, and feel.
  • Callaway Chrome Soft – Impactful distance from graphene core. Soft urethane cover and spin on short game.

For tennis, Wilson and Penn make some of the top competitve balls:

  • Wilson US Open – Felt surface for optimum spin and control. Long lasting durability. ITF approved.
  • Penn Championship Extra Duty – Excellent consistency on serves and groundstrokes. Bright optics for visibility.

There are certainly other quality models from Bridgestone, Taylormade, Dunlop, and more. But the balls from Titleist/Callaway and Wilson/Penn dominate both sports at the highest levels of play.

Best ways to store or maintain the balls

To maximize shelf life and ball performance, follow these storage tips:

Golf Balls

  • Keep in temperature controlled environment around 60-80°F. Avoid attic, garage, or trunk temperature extremes.
  • Store in original packaging or zippered plastic bags to minimize moisture absorption.
  • Replace balls that get splashed or submerged in water which degrades covers.
  • Wash dirty balls with soap and water to prevent abrasion on clubface.

Tennis Balls

  • Keep pressurized balls in airtight cans to maintain bounce and speed.
  • Take extra duty felt balls out of cans to maximize longevity. Store at room temp.
  • Replace balls when heavy use makes felt hairless and slick.
  • Bring new balls to altitude for 2+ weeks to properly pressurize before play.

Proper storage keeps balls fresh and responsive for the best possible performance during play.

How a new one compares to an older one

Simply put, new golf balls outperform older balls in every way. Here’s a recap:

  • New balls fly farther thanks to lighter weight, rubber cores, and urethane covers. Old gutta and balata balls fall short.
  • New aerodynamic dimple patterns add carry vs old bumpy “bramble” balls.
  • New balls feel buttery soft on short irons and wedges with urethane covers. Old balls were clicky and hard.
  • New balls maintain speed and spin over multiple holes. Old wound balls went dead quickly.
  • New premium balls cost $4 to $5+ per ball compared to $0.50 cents years ago.
  • New balls are incredibly durable while old balls cut up after a hole or two.

While some golf traditionalists appreciate the simplicity of old balls, modern technology universally wins out with precise construction for superior distance, feel, spin, and durability. New balls maximize performance across every type of shot.