Is Golf Ball Hunting Illegal? [Examples And Advice]



We’ve all heard of the teenagers that come on to the golf course in the dead of night to collect golf balls from the water hazards, but is golf ball hunting illegal?


There’s no simple answer, but the short answer is “no”, it is not illegal to hunt for golf balls, as long as you respect the owner of the course and don’t bother anyone while doing it. 





A Real-World Case Of Golf Ball Hunting

A peculiar case from British Columbia, Canada actually had a sued teenager acquitted by way of a judge with an interesting view on things. 


The golf club sued the teenager as he was caught with his accomplice very early in the morning at a water hazard with a bucket of balls in his hands wearing a wet suit. 


At that point, most people would call out that he’s caught in action and there’s no way out of it. 


But that’s not how it all went by. When in court the golf club argued that the balls were in fact their property, and they had scuba divers hired in every week to collect the balls. 


The judge on the other hand argued that the golf balls were the property of the golfer who bought them, even though it was on the bottom of the lake. The golf club took the ball into their possession only at the time where the scuba diver delivered it and got paid. 


The teenagers and his accomplice came in before the scuba diver to reap the reward early.


The judge also argued that most golfers will find used balls during play, and pick them up and take ownership of them. 


There are not many cases like this, and collecting golf balls in the middle of the night is frowned upon. But it doesn’t seem like it’s outright illegal.




The Hazards Of Hunting Golf Balls?

In the end, it’s not possible to say with a clear answer whether it’s legal or illegal and it will come down to whether you’re sued and dragged to court or not.


But let’s get some facts straight:


  • If you’re doing it without permission, you’re most likely trespassing on private property. This is illegal.
  • Destroying or mistreating the golf course in the act is not legal.
  • Picking up lost golf balls while playing is perfectly okay.
  • Hauling golf balls from water hazards while playing is not okay.
  • There are other dangers with hunting golf balls. Snakes, alligators, diseases, the possibility of drowning, and so on.


So when summarizing everything it is not without dangers to hunt for golf balls. You risk getting hurt and you can’t be sure that you won’t be prosecuted if you’re caught.


Advice For Hunting Golf Balls

Despite the obvious dangers if you still feel like going golf ball hunting we’ve collected some advice for you to take along. 


Remember to read the above section about the hazards before committing to do it. 


  • Ask permission
      • It’s always better to ask permission from the local pro to make sure that he’s okay with you collecting balls.
      • Chance is that he’s farming golf balls himself or having someone do it for him. You might be able to strike a deal with him if you ask. If you get caught he/she would most likely not be very accommodating.
  • Bring suitable gear
      • Bring a wet/dry suit depending on where you are in the world and what season it is.
      • A diving mask and some waterproof lights might also be good to bring depending on lighting situations. 
      • Sometimes the water hazard will allow you to sweep the bottom with a net for increasing your catch rate.
  • Investigate dangers
      • Different types of animals or insects could inhabit the water hazard. Worst case it could be infectious mosquitos or alligators and snakes! Be sure to investigate before it’s too late.
  • Be humble and don’t annoy others
    • Since you’re doing non-golfing activities on a golf course remember to step aside if golfers approach and are engaged in play. 
    • If someone question what you’re doing, be sure to answer politely and truthfully. Just make sure that you’re not getting any enemies or start a brawl 🙂


If you’re well prepared and have permission, golf ball hunting isn’t illegal and can be quite a lucrative business. Just make sure that you’ve got everything sorted and don’t get yourself hurt in the process, one way or the other. 


Are Lake Golf Balls Any Good or Do They Deteriorate In Water?

This question is actually quite relevant to the profession of golf ball hunting. Because what’s the fun in collecting all those balls if they’re no good?


So golf balls will actually absorb water when emerged for longer periods of time. Whether it has any real impact on the performance is to be left unsaid, but the small amount of water that can be absorbed will of course have some degree of altering the flight characteristics. 


Usually, this is of no concern to the customer who buys lake balls. They usually just go for the bargain and will most likely be on a budget. 


As a legitimate seller of lake golf balls it would be a nice gesture to let your customer in on this “secret” that performance is a little bit affected depending on how long time the balls spent in the water. 


So that’s a thing to consider.




How The Golf Ball Affect The Environment

Many golfers are concerned with how the performance of the golf ball is affected by staying in water, but how does the golf ball affect the marine environment


You will get fined for hitting golf balls into the water on purpose and there must be a reason for that. One is the pollution – the sheer number of golf balls in the ocean or a lake clutters up and gets in the way of nature and marine life. 


Some golf ball materials are toxic to the environment. As golf balls are made of thermoplastics, resins, and other chemicals there is a danger of those getting emitted into the water. 


Some clever manufacturers experiment with making golf balls of biodegradable material. An interesting thought, but there’s a long way to go yet since performance is not up to par with modern golf ball technology.