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Used, Recycled, Refinished, or Refurbished – What’s the Difference?

Used vs Recycled vs Refinished Golf Balls

Many years ago when we started our quest to help lower the price of golf balls, we too, like I’m sure many of you, were confused on what those words mean. These terms continue to muddy an already cloudy golf ball buying experience. Well lucky for you, I will filter the mud and make it crystal clear.  We will explore the definitions, applications, and most importantly performance of these different kinds of golf balls.

First let’s go with straight up definitions:

Used Golf Balls

A golf ball that has already been used.  It’s that easy. Once you take the golf ball out of the package putt, chip, or drive with it ONCE it is now a “Used Golf Ball.”  Just like buying a new or used car – pretty self-explanatory right?! 
Hint: A recycled, refinished, or refurbished golf ball is a USED golf ball no matter what anyone says!!

Recycled Golf Balls

See above “Used golf balls.” Nothing special is done to “recycled” golf balls.  Some people use recycled as a marketing ploy but they are used golf balls cleaned and sorted.

Refinished Golf Balls

During this process, only golf balls that aren’t scuffed or had their cover compromised are used. The golf ball cover is usually wet blasted that removes the logo, number, and any other marking on the golf ball.  Assuming all markings are able to be removed, the golf ball gets a new clear coat, it’s re-painted, then a final clear coat.  There are many companies who do this and the majority stamp “refinished” on the ball.

Refurbished Golf Balls

Refurbished golf balls are very similar to refinished golf ball with a little twist.  These golf balls are restored in a quicker less invasive way. Instead of blasting the cover clean and then re-coat and re-paint, these balls are improved cosmetically based on need. Basically, if there is an arrow that needs painting or a logo that’s fading the refurbished process will make them look as good as new.


Now let’s talk about performance.  There are many golfers out there who will not even consider using one of the above mentioned types of golf balls because they are not “NEW” golf balls.  I totally understand that standpoint, in fact I also had that same sentiment before I actually did research on the topic.

So the key question is, will there be any loss in performance if you play used golf balls instead of new? To answer this question we sent some of our used balls of different grades to our friends at Practical Golf for an independent and unbiased testing. Check out their used golf ball test where they tested our used balls and compared performance with new golf balls.

Spoiler alert: to the average golfer it makes absolutely no difference whether you play a new or used ball!

A Note on Used Golf Ball Quality Levels

At Two Guys with Balls, we have a very simple grading scale.

Eagle is our highest quality level, Birdie is the mid-range quality level and finally, Par is the lowest quality level (see our grading scale for the details). If you have shopped around you will see that everybody seems to have a different scales and definitions. With that said (for the most part) you can follow the guideline below.

Eagle = Mint = 5A = AAAAA = A Quality = Best

Birdie =  Near Mint = 4A = AAAA = B Quality = 2nd Best

Par = Good = 3A = AAA = C Quality = 3rd Best

What does the USGA say about these golf balls?

Here's what USGA Rule 5-1/4 states:

5-1/4 Status of 'X-out,' 'Refurbished' and 'Practice' Balls
Q. What is the status of 'X-out,' 'refurbished' and 'practice' balls?

A.'X-out' is the common name used for a golf ball that a manufacturer considers to be imperfect (usually for aesthetic reasons, e.g., paint or printing errors, but it can also be for construction deficiencies) and, therefore, has crossed out the brand name.

A 'refurbished' golf ball is a second-hand ball that has been cleaned and stamped as 'refurbished.'   In the absence of strong evidence to suggest that an 'X-out' or 'refurbished' ball does not conform to the Rules, it is permissible for such a ball to be used.

However, in a competition where the Committee has adopted the condition that the ball the player plays must be named on the List of Conforming Golf Balls (see Note to Rule 5-1), such a ball may not be used, even if the ball in question (without the X's or without the 'refurbished' stamp) does appear on the List.  

In most cases, 'practice' balls are simply listed, conforming golf balls that have been stamped "Practice," in the same way that golf balls often feature a club or company logo. Such balls may be used even where the Committee has adopted the condition that the ball the player plays must be named on the List of Conforming Golf Balls.

What about price?

As we all have, I’m sure you've experienced a time in your golfing career where you pulled that brand new $4.00 plus ball out of the sleeve, teed it up, and shanked your drive into the woods. You are probably upset, will bogey the hole, and won’t be able to buy your favorite beverage when the cart girl comes by.  As you can see these types of golf balls WILL perform nearly as good as that brand new $4.00 ball and after a few rounds you will have saved enough cash to pay for your next green fee!

The Bottom Line

Regardless of which ball you decide to play, you now are fully informed about what these terms mean.  You have the ability to play whatever quality of ball you prefer without paying an exorbitant price.  Yeah you may lose a few yards but they will NOT affect your scores!  The emotion of losing that $4.00 ball will cost you more strokes than that!

Have any questions, comments or opinions on used golf balls? Are you someone who will never consider playing used? Let us know in the comments below.

3 comments on “Used, Recycled, Refinished, or Refurbished – What’s the Difference?”

  1. When you refinish a golf ball you strip all of the old paint off of it, the ball gets repainted and relabeled. For instance if you strip the finish off of a titleist
    prov-1 is it label a prov-1 or might it get labeled a Bridgestone e12 or some other ball? I always feel very unsure when I buy refurbished. balls. Do you keep prov-1 , Bridgestone, Callaway, TaylorMade or whatever ball you are refinishing separated to make sure they don't get mixed up and get the right refinished on the right golf ball? Thanks for your help

    1. Great question. At, we don't refinish balls ourselves. Our recycled balls are cleaned/sanitized and then graded into Eagle (best quality grade), Birdie and Par. Companies that do refinish (some say refurbished, both mean the same thing) are required to indicate the ball is refinished and use the same brand model. That said, not everybody follows the rules and it's certainly possible that a lower quality ball gets refinished as a higher quality ball like a Pro V1. This is one of the reasons why we only include refinished in our Par grade. In general our recommendation is to avoid buy refinished balls and get the Eagle or Birdie grade balls which will have no significant performance difference from new balls. Hope that answers the question.

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