Why do Golf Balls Have Numbers on Them?

Why do Golf Balls Have Numbers on Them?

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Why do Golf Balls Have Numbers on Them?: Introduction

When you buy a box of a dozen balls you will generally find them split into four sleeves of three. Each sleeve of balls will have had a number printed on it.

You may have wondered why each ball has a number printed on it. 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 providing a form of identification.

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 a different numbered ball and then you wouldn’t get mixed up if your balls finished in close proximity.

Having numbers printed on balls is a relatively new phenomena. 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.

One manufacturer 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.

Although most manufacturers when selling in sleeves of three would have printed 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 adopting a double-digit policy where the numbers would go as high as 99. Titleist for example have offered a service where you can get balls with a number you choose up to 99.

Some manufacturers started printing the golf balls compression number on the ball although this is rarely done today.

You do find some balls with triple digits on them. It is usually in reference to the model number or the number of dimples on the ball and is not the large number you see under the manufacturer’s name. For example, the original Pro V1 ball had 392 dimples and Titleist printed 392 on the ball. Srixon’s AD333 has the model number printed on which of course includes 333 although interestingly it has 338 dimples. The Bridgestone B330 series has triple digits printed on it but again that was purely a model number.

4 dozen Srixon Z Star

Ball Personalisation

Manufacturers have started to offer the option to personalise 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 customisation 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 printed on his golf balls because his wife considers the number nine a lucky number. He decided that 99 might be twice as lucky for him! Following his Olympic win in 2016 the numbers were printed 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 among a number of pros 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 number 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 ball. He moves onto a number two for the second round, a number 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 number to be 49 to mark the year of his mothers 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 a number three.

Catriona Matthew always starts her tournaments with a number four ball.

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.

Why do golf balls have numbers on them

Other Superstitions

Some ordinary golfers believe the same as Jack Nicklaus and will only use number three balls. There are also a number of golfers who think having a three on the ball will mean that they will three putt. So they don’t use balls featuring the number three.

In China the number eight is considered a lucky number and so no doubt many Chinese golfers would  prefer the number eight ball or possibly even 88.


What do High Numbers on a Golf Ball Mean

Most often it means nothing. Numbers greater than 300 may refer to the dimple count 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 the number has been printed in. A number of manufacturers will use different colors for different models of ball. For example Titleist Pro V1 has the number in black while the Pro V1x has the number in red.

Personalised Golf Balls

Many manufacturers will allow you to personalise your golf ball either with your name, initials, and message or some specific icon. Some also allow you to choose the number that appears under the manufacturer’s name. You could choose one lucky to yourself for example your day of birth or year of birth.

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 maximise certain flight characteristics.

For a more in depth look at golf balls take a look at my Ultimate Guide.

British Golf Museum – tools of the trade.

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Start your own golf ball collection – Collectors weekly

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