Should you play recycled golf balls?

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 may be true in some cases, but to a lesser degree than you think. And it used to be truer than it is now. 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. The good news, these days, though, is that the balls are sold according to grade, so you get what you pay for. It also depends on where the golf balls are lost. 

Buy the top-graded golf ball, such as those at 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.