Those Goofy Golf Balls!

  • The WORLDWIDE BAN-THE-DRINKING-STRAW movement started with a single turtle’s straw-clogged nostril video…WHAT ABOUT GOLF BALLS?

By Mike Schoonveld

I confess to being a recovering golfer. I think I’m fully recovered since my urges to hit the links are now exceedingly infrequent. I haven’t owned a set of clubs since I got out of high school and hand-me-downed my hodge-podge collection of Wilsons, MacGregors and Spaldings to my younger brother.

I did play a few rounds of golf in college and after graduation with borrowed clubs, but as I matured, my recreational pursuits moved to more fishing and hunting, and less to “chasing the little round ball.”  Little did I know I was saving the Earth by jonesing on golf.

I was never a threat to Tiger Woods (back then, it was Arnold Palmer), so when I was golfing and encountered a water hazard, I frequently took full use of it. I’ve plunked my share of balls into the ponds, rivers, or lakes guarding the fairways where I played. So do most other golfers.

A recent Internet post puts the number of golf balls littering America’s water-bottoms at 300 million. I don’t know if that’s a total number or that many accumulate each year, but like many Internet statistics, it’s likely a just-plain-guess either way. Either way, that’s a lot of golf balls. Put them all together, and they would fill Yankee Stadium (actually, I just made that up, but feel free to repeat it as fact).

No wonder golf balls have gained the attention of environmental worriers. A stadium full of golf balls can’t be environmentally safe.

But why I wondered? My first thought was perhaps riparian creatures like otters, muskrats, or water snakes were mistaking golf balls for eggs and eating them. Wrong! 

Researchers seeking facts about the aftermath of lost golf balls aren’t much worried about snapping turtles in golf course ponds mistaking them for food, at least so far. However, if the lost-ball scientists could document just one turtle with a golf ball clogged system, it would be revolutionary. After all, the worldwide ban-the-drinking-straw movement started with a single turtle’s straw-clogged nostril video.

If only some cute (or turtle-ugly creature) would turn up with golf-ball-it is, both the golf ball industry as well as the “collect money to save the Earth” industry would benefit greatly.  Golf ball makers could produce and market a variety of water-hazard friendly balls. Politicians and government regulators could make up rules and policies dictating all sorts of golf ball decrees. Tiger Woods and other pros could endorse environmentally sensitive balls. Environmental activists would have more reasons to picket golf courses, especially those frequented by unfriendly politicians.

Alas, it’s not whole golf balls causing the environmental degradation, it’s the conversion of golf balls into microplastic particles now consuming researchers’ dreams. Nothing lasts forever, even a golf ball in a lake. Eventually, the same forces of nature which formed the Grand Canyon and over time, turned the mighty Scottish Mountains into the not so mighty Scottish Highlands (birthplace of golfing) will grind a golf ball into little more than golf-ball dust, and then what?

According to researchers for the DGA (Danish Golf Association), golf ball dust has been found to contain “dangerous levels of zinc” and then opined that zinc could poison plants. Maybe so in Denmark. I’ve heard the phrase, “Something is rotten in Denmark” – maybe it’s rotting golf balls. Here in the USA, zinc is recognized as an essential plant micronutrient and regularly applied to the soil by gardeners and farmers. If you are Danish or plan to golf on your next trip to Scandinavia, look for zinc-free golf balls.

I’m happy problem seekers have little more about which to worry than golf ball pollution around America’s lakes, rivers and golf course ponds into which errant hooks or slices could result in excess zinc, clogged raccoons or other golf ball pollution. If that’s the worst thing being plopped into our water resources, America is in pretty good shape. At least until a turtle shows up on YouTube with a Titleist wedged in its throat.