Are Pond Golf Balls Bad? All You Need To Know

Between 200 and 300 golf balls end up in the lake or pond every season.  Divers who are professionally trained will retrieve these balls from the pond, and then repackage and resell them for a profit.

However, some of these golf balls will sit in the pond for days, weeks or even months. As a result, many players want to know the effects of leaving golf balls in the pond and will they still live up to their performance? Here is what you should know:

Are Pond Golf Balls Bad?

Golf balls that are in the pond for a very long time (such as one week) are bad to use as the water breaches the outershell and gets into the core of the ball. This affects the mass and energy of the ball causing it to lose distance by much as 5 to 10 yards off the tee or even 20 to 30 yards if the balls remains in the pond after 3 months long.

Generally, if the ball sits in the pond for a few hours, it is perfectly fine to reuse it. It takes about 12 hours for water to start penetrating the outershell of the golf ball into the core which is hygroscopic in nature (ability to absorb water).

When golf balls become waterlogged, you won’t necessarily see any visible damage on the surface. On the other hand, the damage will be observed by the driving distance from off the tee. So if you are a low handicap player looking for a better score, then it’s probably not a good idea to use pond golf balls, especially those that have been sitting in the pond for days, weeks or months.

You should also note that golf balls recovered from the pond are going to have scum and debris on the surface that are difficult to come off. Golf balls that are covered with mud or debris will spin out of control when you hit them with your clubs.

They will also lose distance as a result. Therefore, you should ensure that pond golf balls are thoroughly cleaned with soap and water before using them on the golf course. I wrote an article on how to clean a golf ball so it looks fresh and brand new. Click here to check it out.

How Much Are Pond Golf Balls Worth?

So how much are pond golf balls worth? Well, when pond golf balls are retreived and cleaned they can be sold for as low as $0.06 per ball in wholesale stores and $1.00 or higher in retail.

Though it may seem like a small sum of money, the total really adds up as the diver can retrieve thousands of golf balls from the bottom of the pond or lake on some days. In fact, according to, full time golf divers can make up to $100,000 per year by recovering and selling lost golf balls.

While some people do golf ball hunting for a living, there are others who would simply donate these golf balls to a local school club or non profit organization.

When you compare the cost of pond golf balls to new ones, they turn out to be cheaper. For a dozen golf balls, you are looking at between $10-$15 on the lower end and $50-$70 on the higher end.

Wholesale and retail stores are not the only places that accept used golf balls, your municipal golf course will buy them in bulk unlike some country clubs.

The Process Of Retreiveing And Selling Pond Golf Balls

Most of the recycled golf balls come from water hazards as a result of golfers shanking them into ponds or lakes. When they are retrieved, they are stained with mud and dirt from the bottom of the pond which are hard to come off even after regular scrubbing with detergen.

A special process is actually required to get the balls looking white and brand new so they can be resold.

At over 2,000 courses in 43 states of America, greens keepers and pond divers collect millions of balls yearly that are shipped to warehouses around the country. They’re loaded into a large bin where they’re lifted to begin their restoration path.

First they go through a thorough cleaning process that begins with a sudsy wash in a cleaning machine. Then they’re removed and traveled by conveyor into a sterilization bath to remove any contaminants.

The balls are then dried and prepared for sorting. They are loaded onto an automatic sorter.  Here a complex computer program even reads and identifies the brand. Next the balls are bend and travel up to a grading platform.

They’re released into a large table sorter where employees hand-inspect the recycled balls quickly separating them by quality and they’re given a rating.

Balls with cosmetic impairments are set aside for refinishing. They travel to a special golf ball factory where they’re treated with a pre-paint treatment.

They’re loaded into an auto sprayer where they’re repainted white. They travel into a branding station where their original logo is reapplied then they receive a layer of clear coat to complete the restoration process.

The balls are then spot-checked and a unique process where the balls are randomly selected from the production line and sent to the cannon room for the cannon test.

Inside this machine, balls are accelerated to over 200 miles per hour with a high-speed spinning wheel comparative to a baseball pitching machine on steroids.

The golf balls are shot down the length of a steel pipe and thrown into a Collider that measures the accurate durability and performance characteristics. The machine is fully enclosed to protect the factory workers from ricochets.

Finally all the balls are segmented as recycled or refinished and packaged by brand and quality. They’re boxed addressed and ready to ship to customers.

Diving For Pond Golf Balls 

While a golf ball retriever tool is good for getting golf balls out of water, the easiest and most effective way to retreive pond golf balls is for a diver to actually go into the water. These divers are equipped with scuba gears that will allow them to swim deep at the bottom of the lake or pond which most golf balls end up.

Before the diver gets into the golf pond, he or she will meet with the manager to agree on certain terms of the job. Usually, a small fee will be required for the diver to pay for the opportnity to harvest these golf balls or he could pay the fee with some of the golf balls he recovered.

Once they finish negotiating the price, the diver begins his duty in recovering the pond golf balls. Typically you’ll find a crew of divers instead of just one. That usually amounts to  3 divers. They’d spend hours in the pond tring to harvest as much golf balls as possible.

Most of the ponds on the courses are black and mucky, so the job can get really uncomfortable at times. Once the balls are reteived, they are loaded into a huge basket and are passed onto the crew members on land.

The crew divers will use a roller to help them recover the balls depending on the size of the pond. The roller consists of a metal disc on wheels, whereas the roller’s metal grooves grasp the golf balls as it moves through the pond or lake.

The divers will stand at opposite ends of the pond and guide the roller by pulling on a wire connected to it. Once they combed the pond, the roller is pulled to the ground so that the golf balls pop out.


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