Growing up, there was a family friend of my grandpop that we called Uncle Ken (no relation). Uncle Ken retired and lived the good life on golf courses. He could afford this lifestyle because he was frugal in one important area. Ken never bought golf balls. I learned from Ken how to forage a golf course for its bountiful harvest.
Go Where the Golf Balls Are
The key to being a good ball hound is knowing where golf balls end up on a golf course. Golfers never lose golf balls in plain sight. They lose their balls in rough and water hazards but the key is to know which areas to hunt and to do that you need to think like a hacker. Looking in the woods to the right is not always the best place to find golf balls despite the slice being the predominant swing for the casual golfer.
White Clay Creek #6
One of my favorite course, White Clay Creek, has a short par 4, #6, that has a treasure trove for golf balls if you know where to look. The hole measure 251 yards from the white tees so there is usually a back up as beer fueled machismo kicks in and golfers try to make the green in 1. What happens is that golfers forget to follow through and close off their follow through and a hook throws their golf ball into the woods on the LEFT. If you brave the stinging nettles, you can walk in the woods three feet and dig up a plethora of Pro V1s.
Golf Ball Retriever
Another key of being a good ball hound is to have the right tools. The one I swear by and you should buy is the Gotcha Golf Ball Retriever. It retails for $44.95 at PGA Superstore. It telescopes out to 18′ which should help you reach any ball within sight from the shore line. I make sure this is one of the door prizes each year at the GWBAA Annual Golf Tournament. When other players are taking their shot, I stroll up to the shore line with my club and Gotcha in hand scanning the water. Find 10 to 15 golf balls and you paid for your Gotcha.
Never Slow Down the Game
USGA put a time cap on looking for golf balls and in 2019 they lowered the time acceptable time from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. (Rule 18.2) This applies to hunting for balls that are not even yours. If you are going to sneak into the woods to restock your dwindling stash, make sure it is during other players’ swings and that you are back into time for you swing. Don’t be that golfer that slows down the round to find a muddy scratched up TopFlite.
The Benevolent Ball Hound
One foggy morning, I was playing Southbridge Golf Club. I was the first golfers and playing solo so I planned to hunt for some golf balls in between shots. As I teed off on 2, a gentlemen appeared on the side of the fairway walking his dog with a long stick or pole. He was out of the way so I played on. Somehow he kept pace with me for three or four holes and he was hunting for golf balls too. Frustrating, no? Finally, we ended up a water hazard together and I greeted him and asked him what he was doing. He response floored me.
“I am looking for golf balls. I don’t even play.” he said and before I could ask him WTF he continued, “I donate the balls to the First Tee for the kids to use.”
Needless to say, I felt like a heel. I smiled and handed over a handful of Top Flite golf balls that I would never hit.
Let the Ball Hound Hunt
Another time, I was volunteering at a customer appreciation golf tournament. My assignment was to supervised a hole in one par 3 for possible winners. After the first couple of foursomes, I got bored waiting for the next group to visit me and my tee box. My tee box was positioned to the left of the previous hole’s green with a patch of woods between them. I started to imagine errant golf shots ending up in those trees. So I pushed my way into the shade and started to look around. By the end of the day, I had found 24 golf balls!
Good hunting out there. If you find a ball you won’t play due to brand loyalty or condition, drop it at the next tee box for another golfer to grab and enjoy.