do golf balls float

Do Golf Balls Float? (or Sink?)

You may be wondering why some golf balls float and others don’t. Well, it comes down to if the golf balls are real or not. An easy way to test is to see if they float. We recommend testing them at home with a bucket of water rather than out on the course, just in case.

So, do golf balls float? Real golf balls don’t float because they are denser than water. Fake golf balls float because they are hollow and less dense than the water.

But… you’ve seen golf balls floating with your own eyes! And they look real! Well, they appear real, but they’re not actual golf balls because those kinds of golf balls are hollow on the inside. Fake golf balls are not designed for use on fairways or larger golf courses, which is why you find them often at mini-golf places.

So why do fake golf balls float? Other than being hollow, what’s the difference? This article will cover the science behind why golf balls float and debunk some of the reasons why you may have seen real golf balls floating as experiments on YouTube. But we’ll also talk about why you want heavier golf balls and some reasons to use the fake ones.

Real Golf Balls Don’t Float

golf ball floating

Fore! It’s time for some science! So why do real golf balls sink? It comes down to the density. In the most simple definition, density is the compactness of an object. There are two factors that influence density:

  • Mass
  • Surface area

The mass of a golf ball is around 45 grams, with the diameter being about 42 mm at the least. That means that real golf balls are packed with a lot of mass for their small size. Which makes them rather dense. If golf balls retained the same mass but were the size of a baseball or even a basketball, they would not be as dense.

So all this talk of the density of the golf ball, but that hasn’t answered the question about why they don’t float. Real golf balls don’t float because they are denser than the water. The higher the density of the object, the less likely it will float. Hence why humans can jump into the pool and actually go under the surface of the water.

And if you’re wondering how humans can float on their backs in the water, it’s because you have increased the surface area touching the water. Remember, when the mass stays the same but the size increases, the density changes. Golf balls have no such option to just flip over to their backs and float.

But you want the high density of the golf ball. That’s because of physics! When you swing and hit the golf ball (applying force to a mass), the acceleration benefits. If you tried to tee off with a fake golf ball, it’s not going to go as far because it’s not as dense to keep the momentum forward through the air resistance. Nor do fake golf balls get as much air underneath them as they can’t make their way through the air resistance. The mass of a real golf ball helps it to accelerate, go high, and travel longer distances because it has the internal weight to keep it slicing through the air resistance.

But… YouTube Video!

You may have seen a video of a real, certified golf ball floating in the water. Well, there is a rather simple answer to this.

Recall the conversation about density above?

In those videos, they have changed the water makeup to make the water to be as dense or denser than the golf ball. This is usually done by adding salt to the water, as saltwater is more dense than the golf ball, allowing it to float.

(The same thing goes for humans, by the way– which is why spas are now offering Epsom salt float therapy).

So if you’re ever by the ocean and see a golf ball floating, the chances of it being real or fake is 50/50.

Fake Golf Balls Float

If you’ve ever been mini-golfing and have seen golf balls floating in the water hazards, it is because they are fake. You may also have noticed that the golf balls at miniature golf places are lighter because they’re mostly hollow. Why do mini-golf places use fake golf balls?

Well, to save money. Because they float, they can go out with a net and salvage the lost golf balls, clean them, and reuse them for the next customer. Not to mention, the fake golf balls come in bulk packaging, so when one is too faded or has worn down with use, they can throw them away and replace them without losing money.

Some golfers like to use the cheap, bulk fake golf balls for practice. Usually, it’s to familiarize oneself with a new club, adjust the swing, or work on putting. But when it comes to the real deal of golfing, you want the real deal golf ball too, which is why they aren’t used on standard golf courses.

But driving ranges with water hazards might use them for similar reasons to why mini-golf courses use them, and these are usually denoted as being ‘range golf balls’ for such a purpose.

Conclusion: Do Golf Balls Float?

So the next time you see a floating golf ball, you know that it’s a “fake” golf ball, because:

  • “Real” golf balls (the kind you play a round of golf with) sink because they are more dense than water.
  • “Fake” golf balls (the kind you use at a mini-golf course) float because they are hollow and thus, less dense than the water they’re floating on.

Hopefully, that answered every question about golf balls floating and then some. When it comes time to hit the green or for a fun trivia question, you know now what separates the different types of golf balls, and how to test if they’re real or fake. And you may have learned some cool new science to show off at parties or perhaps an upcoming science fair.