Why Do Golf Balls Have Numbers On Them?
When you buy a box of golf balls you will generally find them split into four sleeves of three. Each sleeve of balls will have a number printed on it.
You may have wondered why golf balls have numbers on them. The simple answer these days is that a golf ball must be identifiable. This is one way to make the golfer’s life easier by having a number printed on golf balls for identification purposes.
Let’s look at what the numbers on golf balls mean.
Using A Number To Identify A Golf Ball
For example, you’re playing in a three-ball and all three of you like to play Titleist Pro V1. Each of you could play different numbered golf balls and then you wouldn’t get mixed up if your balls finished in close proximity on the golf course. Don’t forget that playing the wrong golf ball will mean penalty strokes if you are playing in a competition so knowing the identification number on your ball is going to help you avoid extra shots or even disqualification.
The number below the brand name is usually just a single-digit number in red or black.
Having numbers printed on balls is a relatively new phenomenon. Certainly back in the days of featheries and gutta-perchas they wouldn’t have been identified using a number. In fact, many probably wouldn’t have even had the manufacturer’s name on until the advent of mass production.
Do All Golf Balls Have Numbers On Them?
Most modern golf balls just have 4 sleeves numbered 1 to 4. Not every manufacturer puts numbers on the golf ball though.
One manufacturer famously decided rather than using numbers on their balls they would use playing card suits. The Penfold Ace was available as hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds. It was also featured in the 1965 Bond movie, Goldfinger.
Most manufacturers when selling in sleeves of three would have the same number on all three balls. They would have then placed four sleeves each with a different number in a box of one dozen.
As the process of using numbers grew in popularity some started adding two-digit numbers. Titleist for example has offered a service where you can get balls with a double-digit number up to 99.
Why Do Some Balls Have A 3 Digit Number On Them?
In addition to the large number beneath the manufacturer’s logo, you do find some balls with triple digits on them. It is usually in reference to the model name or the number of dimples on the ball.
For example, the original Pro V1 ball had 392 dimples and Titleist put 392 on the ball. Srixon’s AD333 and the Bridgestone B330 series both have model numbers that mean a three-digit number will be added to the ball.
Golf Ball Compression
In the past, some manufacturers printed the golf ball compression rating number on it, usually 90 or 100. These days they tend not to publicize the compression as everybody measures it slightly differently.
Manufacturers have started to offer the option to personalize balls that you purchase from them. Some allow the addition of messages or symbols and some allow you to pick the numbers on the ball.
Having specific numbers on a ball is often a form of customization chosen by touring professionals. They will pick a number of personal significance to them or that they consider lucky.
Justin Rose decided to have 99 stamped on his golf balls because his wife considers that nine is a lucky number. He decided that 99 might be twice as lucky for him! Following his Olympic win in 2016 the numbers were painted in gold.
Other Professional Lucky Numbers
Rory McIlroy has the number 22 printed on his ball. He did some research and apparently, 22 signifies both power and risk and reward. This is also the date of his marriage to Erica Stoll. So it reminds him of a happy day.
Ben Crenshaw is one of several professionals who won’t play a golf ball where the number is higher than four. He believes it helps him avoid scoring worse than four on any hole.
Some players actually wouldn’t even go as high as four and would stick to the numbers one to three.
Jason Day was born in 1987 and his balls are marked 87 to commemorate that.
Ernie Els won’t use balls marked with a two as he believes they are unlucky.
Holly Clyburn thinks number four balls have bad luck.
Three-time Major champion Vijay Singh starts round one with a number one. He moves onto a two for the second round, a three for the third round and finishes the final round with a ball marked with a four. Karrie Webb and Retief Goosen go from four down to one!
Former PGA champion Jimmy Walker prefers to play with odd-numbered balls.
Sergio Garcia has had the number 10 printed on his balls to honor Real Madrid’s 10 European Champions Cup/Champions League victories. He has more recently asked for his ball to be stamped 49 to mark the year of his mother’s birth.
The Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus believed in the power of three by carrying three coins in his pocket and usually using a number three ball.
Ian Poulter says he doesn’t have any superstitions but he won’t use a number three golf ball! Fred Funk is another who avoids balls with a three on them.
Catriona Matthew always starts her tournaments with a number four.
Dustin Johnson switched from 32 to one.
Buck Moore, caddy to Olin Browne wouldn’t let his employer use even-numbered balls during the 2015 Champions Tour season.
Some ordinary golfers believe the same as Jack Nicklaus and will only use balls numbered three. There are also some golfers who think having a three on the ball will mean that they will three-putt so they won’t use those balls.
In China, the number eight is considered lucky and so no doubt many Chinese golfers would prefer an eight on their ball or possibly even 88.
For a more in-depth look at golf balls take a look at my Ultimate Guide.
Why Do Golf Balls Have Numbers On Them: Conclusion
So, numbers on golf balls are usually used for identification and probably to differentiate between different models or compressions or types of golf balls.
Don’t forget though in a competition to mark your ball with your own unique mark to make sure you know that it is yours!
British Golf Museum – tools of the trade.
Start your own golf ball collection – Collectors weekly
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
What do High Numbers on a Golf Ball Mean?
Most often it means nothing.
Numbers greater than 300 may refer to the number of dimples on a golf ball or the numbers may be associated with the model number such as AD333.
What Does the Color Of the Number on a Golf Ball Mean?
Something that might be more significant than the number is actually the color that it has been printed in.
Several manufacturers will use different colors for different models of balls. For example, Titleist Pro V1 has the number in black while the Pro V1x has a red number.
Other brands of golf balls have followed a similar standard with their tour quality ball. The ‘standard’ version has a black number and the ‘x’ version has a red number.
Personalized Golf Balls
Many golf ball manufacturers will allow you to personalize your golf ball either with your name, initials, a message or some specific image.
Some also allow you to choose the number that appears under the manufacturer’s name. You could choose the one you consider lucky for example your day of birth or year of birth. You could pick another number with some sort of personal meaning.
Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?
Put simply, golf balls have dimples in order to improve the way they fly.
Manufacturers will put a lot of effort into their dimple design. They will test different patterns and sizes of dimples to try to maximize certain flight characteristics.
Sometimes the golf ball manufacturer will indicate the number of dimples on the ball as well as an identification number.