Do you have fond memories of sunny summer days, bucket in hand, collecting golf balls in the field next to the immaculate green course behind your house? Well, you were doing the land more good than your ten-year-old self could have imagined, because those plastic dimply spheres were a far cry from biodegradable golf balls.
Recent research shows that it takes between a century and a millennium for a golf ball to decompose. All the while, the balls release harmful heavy metals like lead an zinc into the environment, potentially poisoning the area’s flora and fauna. Perhaps not a big problem from one tiny little golf ball, but add that one ball to the 300 million golf balls per year that are discarded in the United States alone, and that’s a lot of toxic leaching.
Not Just a Problem in the U.S.
According to a recent CNN report, a search for the Loch Ness Monster turned up an even bigger underwater fiend- “hundreds of thousands of golf balls lining the bed of the loch.” The loch had been used for generations as an alternate driving range for locals and tourists. If there are that many balls in the loch, imagine how many toxic golf balls line the ocean floor as a result of cruise ship driving ranges and other vacation resorts.
Golf Balls Litter Inland Lakes
Concern is great for ocean habitats and marine life, but freshwater inland lakes are also under the golf-ball assault. In fact, one entrepreneur created a business out of Used Golf Ball Diving after pulling 2,000 balls out of out small Florida lake in just a day.
Building golf-ball recycling into a full time business, and paying divers eight cents a ball, Jim Reid quickly became the Golf Ball King of Florida. With up to 100,000 golf balls per day being recycled through his Orlando company, Second Chance Golf Ball Recyclers, this man is making a big impact on the health of those waters. But the question remains: How much damage did the balls do before they were finally removed?
Biodegradable Lobster Balls
While recycling the golf balls provides one solution, researchers in New England have come up with a real viable option to help end the ecological pollution caused by golf-ball littering. A completely biodegradable golf ball made from crushed lobster shells.
University of Maine Biological and Chemical Engineering Professor David Neivandt and undergrad student Alex Caddell teamed up with The Lobster Institute, and created a ball utilizing the wasted lobster shells from the canning industry that would otherwise end up in landfills. While this biodegradable ball slightly under-performs its traditional dimpled white counterpart, its performance is on par with other biodegradable options at a fraction of the cost.
Biodegradable Wood-Fiber Golf Balls
If the idea of crustacean golf balls doesn’t float your boat, you can always turn to wood for an eco-friendly alternative. Several brands of wood-fiber golf balls are currently on the market. One hundred percent biodegradable, they can be used with drivers or putters, but have a slightly shorter distance on the green.
Safe to hit into fresh or saltwater, and taking under six months to fully biodegrade, these eco-friendly golf balls are currently being used by the U.S. Navy and several major cruise lines. As an added bonus, the wood-based ball will float for twenty-four hours before absorbing enough water to sink and begin biodegrading. So, you can scoop them up as use them over and over again if you so desire.
Before you hit the course for a relaxing day of golf, go on line and order eco-friendly biodegradable golf balls. It will cost you a few more pennies, but well worth the guilt-free pleasure. Well, almost guilt-free… next step, “greening” the green. But that’s another conversation entirely.