Hot and Cold Golf Balls

By Christopher Zoukis

Most people don’t know it, but the temperature of the golf ball and the ambient temperature affect the performance of the ball.  Air temperature causes changes in the ball’s resiliency and its spin, along with the density of the air it travels through.

Generally speaking, the warmer a golf ball is the farther it travels.  This is because the rubber materials used to construct the balls function more efficiently and provide more resilience at higher temperatures.  A warmer ball leaves the clubface with more velocity and more spin, encouraging loft.  In addition, if the ball is warm when it lands, it carries more bounce, because heat gives the ball more elasticity.  The ball bounces more and travels further.

The cooler the ambient temperature is, the more dense the air.  If the air is dense, the ball needs more velocity to go as far as it would in thinner or warmer air.  So if the ambient temperature is warm, the air is less dense, which means the ball performs better.  It’s not unlike the tires on race cars, where the higher the temperature, the stickier the tire, which means the car can go faster.

If you’re playing in cool weather, the ball’s compression ration makes a big difference in how far the ball will travel.  For the most part, high compression golf balls will not travel as far as lower compression golf balls in cold conditions.  And if it’s cold outside, and you store your balls in a cold place, the higher compression balls will harden.  They become less resilient.  This is a good time to break out the pre-warmed golf balls.

If you’re playing in cold weather, you’ll benefit from using more club than you would on a warmer day.  In fact, for every 10 degree drop in temperature, count on about two yards of lost distance.  So if you’re using an 8-iron in warm weather, you might need to use a 7-iron in cold weather to hit the ball the same distance.

Some manufacturers actually make devices that can warm your golf ball – kind of like race car tire heaters – and make it travel farther.  At least that is the theory.  There are plug-in units that electrically heat golf balls.  Others on the market are containers that you can use in the microwave.  You put your golf balls in the container, then pop the whole thing into the microwave and nuke it.  There is some debate about whether ball-warmers really work or not, because the balls only hold the heat for about thirty minutes.

Your best bet is to just move to Hawaii, where it’s warm most of the year so you don’t have to worry about golf ball performance.  You just have to worry about your tendency to slice.