Using the photoacoustic effect of interference fringes scanned at the phase velocity of surface acoustic waves (SAW), we excited tone bursts of SAW with a center frequency of around 30 MHz on a 8 mm ϕ steel bearing ball. A surprisingly large number (around 20 turns) of round-trip propagations was observed. The time interval between the SAW at the first and the twelfth turn was as large as 93 μs, however it could be determined with a 2 ns resolution since an exact overlapping of the two wave forms was possible. Thus, we achieved a very high resolution of 0.002% in the velocity measurement, and a velocity change of 2 m/s due to the deposition of a 50-nm-thick Ag film was easily detected. Because of its noncontact nature, this method would be useful for nondestructive evaluation of bearing balls. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.