Golf Balls Knowledge Base

What Do the Numbers on Golf Balls Mean?

Anyone who has played golf (or just seen a golf ball) has probably wondered at some point what the meaning of numbers on golf balls is.

ALL golf balls have one or more numbers printed on them. And these can actually tell you a few things about a certain ball:

  • Identification purposes (so you know which ball is yours)
  • The compression rating
  • The number of dimples on the ball

Below, we explain in more detail what the numbers printed on a golf ball mean.

What Is the Difference Between a High Number and a Low Number?

There’s no difference between a high number and low number.

New players typically think that lower numbers on golf balls mean they’re for amateurs.

But as already discussed, numbers on golf balls nowadays are nothing more than personal preferences for players.

Alternatively, if it’s an OLD ball, a low number is likely just a compression rating or identification number. Meanwhile, something in the hundreds would likely be the number of dimples.

What Do the Red Numbers Mean?

Some have thought a red number means a golf ball is illegal or special. But that’s not the case.

The colors of a golf ball are used to signify compression ratings.

Red numbers meant a ball had a low compression rating. Meanwhile, a black number meant a high compression golf ball.

But nowadays, the color of a number is simply part of its distinguishing mark as well.

Some manufacturers can give the red and black colors many meanings too.

For instance, Titleist uses the red and black numbers on their ProV1 and ProV1x models.

The black-numbered ProV1x has the following characteristics:

  • Soft feel
  • High flight
  • More iron spin
  • Higher short game spin (compared to the ProV1)

In comparison, below are the features of the red-numbered ProV1:

  • Softer feel (compared to the ProV1x)
  • Mid-flight
  • Less iron spin
  • High short game spin

How Can I Tell Identification Numbers from Compression Rating Numbers and Number of Dimples?

Because golf ball manufacturers let you print any number on the golf ball, you might wonder how you can tell apart the different numbers.

For a two-digit number, having a rounded number like 40 or 70 means it’s a compression rating. Any other double-digit number is an identification number.

The same goes for three-digit numbers. The highest compression number is 110. But something between 300 and 500 can be read as how many dimples the ball has.

Then other three-digit numbers are already for identification.

A good rule of thumb would be if a golf ball is new, three or two digits would most likely signify a personal mark.

But if it’s an old golf ball with three or two digits, they might NOT be a distinguishing mark.

One-Digit Number

A one-digit number is an identification number. It’s usually found above or under the brand name and near the horizontal line of the golf ball.

When you purchase golf balls, you’ll notice that three balls will have the same number, then the next three balls will have the same number, and so on.

This helps you distinguish which ball is yours when playing in games.

If golfers in a group have the same brand of a golf ball, they’ll have to check that everyone has a different number before starting a round.

This avoids confusion about whose golf ball made it in or nearest to the hole. You can also avoid PENALTIES accidentally taking the wrong ball when playing your round.

The most common single-digit numbers are 1 to 4. But it can range from 0 to 9.

There are a lot of golf ball models all over the market. But some brands are more well-known than others.

Because of that, there are times when a handful of players in the same group have the same golf ball model and single-digit number.

Most golfers prefer to further personalize their golf balls by signing, putting their initials, or leaving other special marks on them.

Two-Digit Number

Double-digit numbers represent a ball’s compression rating. This tells you how hard or how bouncy a ball is.

In theory, this is very helpful for playing strategies. If a golfer knows they have a high-compression golf ball, they’ll also learn to swing hard to make a good shot.

This also makes it easier for a golfer to know which ball to look for, depending on their swing.

  • A recreational or amateur golfer might do better with a lower compression ball because these are softer and can compress more to give the ball more distance.
  • A more experienced golfer might opt for a ball with higher compression since it will give a player more control.

Players are also better equipped with skills to control the ball.

However, people have argued that this is a gendered way of marking. And that this can lead to discrimination and affect what golf balls the market buys.

Low compression ratings (ranging from 70 to 80) are deemed “ladies’ balls.” Meanwhile, male golfers were expected to have golf balls with ratings of up to 100 or 110.

Two-digit golf was big in the 1990s. But nowadays, most golf ball manufacturers typically DON’T print two-digit numbers on golf balls anymore.

Besides, you can also tell a ball’s compression rating through other factors like swing speed.

Instead, if you see a double-digit number on golf balls, they’re already likely used as a distinguishing mark.

Three-Digit Number

A triple-digit number on a golf ball tells you how many dimples it has. This dimple number ranges from 300 to 500.

Dimples do affect the functionality of a ball because they help the golf ball fly in a smooth and precise path.

Your chances of landing a ball as close to the hole will INCREASE.

HOWEVER, this isn’t the only way to evaluate how good a golf ball or play is. Other things that will affect your play are a ball’s inner core and your own skills.

Not to mention you’ll need the right number of dimples for it to work well.

The ideal number of dimples is around 450. Anything more than that can make the golf ball harder to control.

Because of this, putting a three-digit number isn’t common in modern balls — except for some limited versions.

Fun fact about 3 digit numbered golf balls:

Golf balls, such as the Polara Ultimate Strength, have dimples with different depths. This lets them fly a straighter path than other balls. However, they’re not allowed in USGA competitions.

Similar to a two-digit number, finding three digits on a golf ball usually means it’s also a distinguishing mark.

But you can still usually find the number of dimples printed on the box.

Other Numbers on Golf Balls

Not all golf ball numbers have the meanings discussed above.

Players tend to like to print numbers that have a personal meaning — may it be a lucky number or a special date.

Many professional golfers do this too.

Justin Rose, for instance, has the number 99 printed on a golf ball. He explains that 9 is his wife Kate’s number equivalent. And 99 can give him double luck.

Naomi Hagen, GolftLink

Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia had the number 10 on his balls. This signifies the Champions League championship of Real Madrid (his favorite team).

Most manufacturers let golfers customize their golf balls by having any number printed on them.

Final Words

The numbers on a golf ball are used to indicate things like compression ratings and the number of dimples.

Having a ball with good features is helpful, but a golfer’s play still depends more on their skills and how they handle a ball — rather than on the ball itself.

Nowadays, the number on a ball is mainly for identification purposes.

Aside from that, you can also customize these numbers to put a number that has special meaning to you.

Frequently Asked Questions about the numbers on Golf Balls

Now that we’ve settled what the numbers on golf balls mean, below we answer a few more questions you might have:

Why Do Golf Balls Have Numbers on Them?

The printed numbers on a golf ball mean a few things, as discussed above. Some might still prefer using old balls that tell them the number of dimples or compression index a ball has.

But the main reason modern balls still have a number printed on them is for identification purposes. Many players tend to choose the same type of golf ball brands and models. So different numbers on golf balls are printed to avoid confusion during a play. Additionally, players also customize their numbers for good luck.

What Numbers Are Allowed on Golf Balls?

ANY number is allowed on golf balls! Manufacturers let golfers personalize their balls in terms of the number printed and the color of that number. There’s no limit to what number can be put on the balls. But manufacturers will choose any single-digit number as a DEFAULT.

By Naomi Hagen

Hi! I'm Naomi Hagen, the Lead Editor of Golftlink. Me and Andrew met during a casual game of golf at Seminole in Florida. I've got a hcp of 5, one of my key achievements in life apart from raising four beautiful children (one is a scratch golfer!). I live with my family outside Florida and absolutely love the game of golf.