Every golfer manages to magically collect an overabundance of golf balls along their journey - but what is the appropriate action to dispose of the excess? Garbage? Recycling bin? Thrift shop?
The truth is, there isn't one simple or right course of action. There are incorrect ones though.
The On-Going Golf Ball Crisis
The current (and horrifying) estimation for the amount of lost or discarded golf balls in the U.S. sits around 300 million each year. Massive amounts of these sit at the bottom of bodies of water, (very) slowly decomposing.
It can take one golf ball close to 1000 years to break down, and while it's doing so, it will release toxins into the water like zinc oxide, benzoyl peroxide, and zinc acrylate. These poisonous compounds elicit a stress response in aquatic life, as well as pose health and environmental risks.
Golf balls also break down to reveal their inner rubber, known to unravel over 300 yards of synthetic material and float among the kelp, camouflaging in with it. Marine animals go on to eat this, where they then enter our food chain for our own consumption. Millions of microplastic particles have been discovered in large samplings of human feces, placentas, breast milk, organs and transferred to newborns. This occurs from the air we breathe, the liquids we drink, and the food we eat.
Solutions to golf ball litter are limited but doable. Those who seek to make responsible choices for the planet, or even make a buck, may consider the following:
You may think the damaged balls you have lying around at home or the ones found at the bottom of the ocean (retrieved by noble divers) are simply trash, but there's hope for them yet.
Many of these balls can be refurbished by dedicated specialists. They receive the balls from donors and retrievers from far and wide, where they then grade the balls. Balls that can be saved will get cleaned, repainted, and restamped with a fresh logo - good as new. They'll then hit the market again!
Another option is recycling. There are currently no city-appointed curbside services for this recycling material, and balls don't belong in the regular plastics bin. Instead, companies will offer the private service to pick up or take in your old balls in hopes of repurposing them as they are. They may be used to build things, make crafts, or play with for fun. Some will even pay you!
If you've got some perfectly intact balls lying around that you don't need, you can certainly donate them to secondhand shops, schools, golf courses, or training centers that will gratefully accept. Most intact balls found in the oceans and landfills also wind up being recirculated into the market as well, so brand new synthetic materials/balls don't need to be manufactured from scratch to meet the consumer demands.
You can also certainly sell your old balls if they're in great condition and boast respected branding and composition. You can sell them to pawn shops, online platforms, and the like.
Aside from donating, selling, or repurposing old golf balls, other potential solutions are also being explored for the balls that are accidentally (and inevitably) headed seaward.
Some brilliant minds have been exploring biodegradable golf balls in hopes, they break down safely and quickly - especially in water. Albus Golf’s ecobioball, for example, breaks down in 2 days to reveal a center filled with fish food. Unfortunately, it isn't approved as a standardized golf ball yet, though it's certainly on the right track.
Another option would be to set up nets in nearby golf course ponds/lakes. This could trap marine life or block them from reaching the surface though. It may also break off and add to the massive amounts of other fishery pollution in the seas. Fishing nets already make up half of the ocean's plastics and are the primary antagonist in marine extinction due to bycatching, tangling/injury, and pollution.
Creating golf balls that float isn't terribly hard, even under regulation standards, however it poses the issue of them floating away and becoming even more challenging for retrievers to catch.
Undoubtedly, a massive contribution in the mission to keep golf balls out of the water, and other places they don't belong, would simply be to train golfers to play better (and aim better).
The ball recycling industries have seen no decline on their market-front, alluding to the reality that there are a lot of bad golfers out there, leaving with a lot fewer balls than they came with (though they still probably have a dozen back at home). Not only could these golfers do their part to clean up their mess and properly dispose of extra balls, but they could use a little guidance for damage prevention in the first place!
Why Not Look to the Pros for Advice?
PGA stars test a multitude of training programs and equipment every year, backing and influencing the ones they believe in. The stars have spoken and they agree that with a little practice with calibration equipment like the Pro Path Putting Mirror and its drill gates, as well as the Play-Off Putting Mat, you'll be sinking holes instead of balls.
These tools are designed and used by pros like Grant Field, Richard Woodhouse, and Cam Smith. They're designed to help you align yourself properly, while perfecting aspects of distance and direction control - so you'll never miss a putt to the pond.Follow Back2Basics for instructional tutorials to help with aim and form, because the planet needs you to be on your A-game!