Are Golf Balls Bad For Lakes?


Golf balls are tough, so what’s the harm of them being in the water and are they really bad for lakes?


Actually there are quite a few issues, and the environmental impact might be more extensive than you think. 


It’s such a big problem that you will be fined if caught hitting balls into nature on purpose. After all, that annoying slice or hook isn’t on purpose 🙂


Furthermore, environmentalists dive into the ocean to fetch the thousands of balls hit into the surf each year. 


Read on to learn more about the issue of golf balls in the nature.







Is It Really Illegal To Hit Golf Balls Into Lakes Or The Ocean?

Yes it is. There are several reasons for it. One being the general disrespect of nature. Hitting golf balls into lakes outside of golf courses is considered littering on par with ditching a soda can in the woods. 


For many golfers it may not be something they think much about, since golf balls are considered a part of the game they love and balls are necessary to be able to play. 


If you count out the environmental issues, there’s also the possibility of hitting someone if you decide to swing away in a non-authorized area. 


There are several reports of fishermen and leisure boaters who have been hit by golf balls while sailing on lakes in the U.S. 




What Is The Environmental Impact Of Golf Balls In The Water?

Golf balls may look harmless, but consider the materials put in them. They are made of thermoplastics and resin types, with rubber cores, so as they degrade in the water, they will slowly but surely pollute in different ways. 


The cover will be split into micro plastics and get eaten by the microorganisms on the seabed or fish and birds. 


The core can also be split into smaller parts, and usually will float to the surface and mix with surface kelp and in turn get eaten by birds and other larger animals.


Another aspect of the decomposing core is the materials used to manufacture the core. Zinc oxide, zinc acrylate and benzoyl peroxide are among some of them. While most non-scientists will have no clue of the impact of these materials, let’s just say that they are not beneficial to marine life!


It takes from 100 to 1000 years for golf balls to decompose and 300 million are lost and discarded each year. This is all over the world, and an estimated number. But even if it’s not entirely accurate it still sets things a bit into perspective.




An Example Story

The issue of golf ball pollution is quite extensive around the links courses in the world. The same issues are found in lakes, but the degradation of balls are more extensive in the ocean because of the force from the waves. 


The famous Pebble Beach Golf Links has a dark (or mostly white) secret lurking on the seabed. Some areas are filled with golf balls, and scientists are aware of the issue and investigating it.


It was first discovered and brought to attention by a junior at Carmel High School in California, named Alex Weber. Check out her site if you want more information on the project, and the video below from their underwater golf ball pickup.




The golf club managers and people in the area are now more aware of the issue and actively doing something about it.




Biodegradable Golf Balls

To address environmental issues from golf balls polluting lakes and the ocean, golf balls that are biodegradable have been developed.


Regular golf balls are not biodegradable!


These newly developed golf balls are made from corn starch and PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) which are both organic materials. They degrade in about two weeks, and will not impact the environment in any way.


The performance of these balls is questionable, since you can’t get the same performance out of the limited materials that can be used with the environment in mind. 


They are mostly thought out for events, cruise ships and ventures like that, where people will get an exclusive experience without impacting the sea.




FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Best Golf Balls?

This is a very subjective matter. The best golf ball is individual to each golfer. Balls are manufactured with different traits to suit swing speed, need for spin or distance, softness and a lot of other things. 


You can read more in our ultimate guide to the best golf balls – it sure does pay off to get the right ball.




Do Golf Balls Go Bad In The Water?

They degrade albeit it is a very slow process. But you should be aware of the fact that golf balls will absorb water when submerged for longer periods. 


By doing this the characteristics of the ball will change. How much is hard to tell – and immense testing will be the only way to tell.


Some claim that golf balls will not lose their characteristics when submerged for longer periods, but they usually sell lake balls 🙂


For beginner golfers lake balls are a great way to save some in the budget. But as the handicap lowers, consider opting for new balls, to get the most out of your game. 




How Do They Get Golf Balls Out Of Lakes?

Most of the time fetching golf balls will involve a wet-suit and a scuba mask. The right to retrieve balls from lakes on the course usually belongs to the club pro. He can choose to retrieve the balls himself, or sell the rights to a third party.


Some make a lucrative business from retrieving balls and develop clever ways to extract balls from lakes, to maximize profit. See video below.





Photo by Adam Vradenburg on Unsplash