It may be a surprise that the effect of having mud or scuffs on the ball is essentially the same and either can affect your game...
Many amateur golfers are dissatisfied to have to hit a ball with mud on it, yet they take pride in how many rounds they can get out of a scuffed golf ball before retiring it.
The amount of technology that goes into their golf ball cover design is well-advertised by golf ball companies. The dimple pattern is constantly changing to enhance performance. Changes to that cover due to dirt or scuffs can diminish the golf ball’s performance.
But is the effect significant?
Mud on the Ball
Mud on the side of the golf ball will cause the ball to move in the opposite direction of the mud patch. The amount of course dispersion varies with the amount of mud on the ball. In some instances, mud on the surface of the ball caused it to fly as much as 7 yards offline.
There is little effect on the spin, launch angle, and ball speed if the mud is not on the impact area. Distance, in general, is not as much affected as accuracy when it comes to surface mud.
Golfers will be relieved to know that most mud falls off during impact. This makes the mud’s effect on the ball effect variable.
It makes sense that stickier mud has more of an effect on ball performance than loose mud.
Scuffs and Scrapes
A scuff or a scrape on the ball will move in the opposite direction of the scrape, similar to the effect of mud.
The bad news is that even small scuffs that a golfer may overlook affect the ball’s performance. Light scrapes have been shown to cause a ball to fly as much as 8 yards offline.
Scuffs also lowered the ball’s peak height. This made the ball roll out more on the green.
The more damaged the ball is, the more impact it has on the ball’s performance.
In one study, a moderate scuff decreased drive carry distance by about 40 yards and went more than 45 yards off the target line.
What You Should Know
Changes to a ball’s cover surface, whether added mud or chips in the dimples, negatively impact the ball’s aerodynamic ability. This can cause a great deal of problems in the ability to control the ball and overall performance.
It doesn’t take very much damage to your golf ball to have a negative impact on your game. Any change to the surface of the ball will change the ball's flight performance. The bigger the damage, the more intense the impact on performance will be.
Of course, a golfer can do nothing except hit a muddy ball until it reaches the green when it can be marked, picked up, and cleaned.
When hitting, often, the ball will fly in the opposite direction as the mud. Allow for this possibility and hope the effect is minimal!
The best practice is to replace a damaged ball after finishing the hole in a competitive round.
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