One of life’s eternal questions: where do all those golf balls go that are hit into a water hazard? If it was a pond, I knew the answer from my misspent youth - kids sneaking onto the premises at night fished them out of the ponds and sold them to other golfers. But what about Pebble Beach? Those balls went into the ocean!

Now we know that, too. A diver and student at a nearby college removed nearly 30,000 golf balls from Stillwater Cove at Pebble Beach between 2016 and 2018. The penalty strokes would be bad enough. But the balls apparently disintegrate in the surf, contributing microplastic and chemicals to the ocean waters. And she estimated that 1 to 5 million balls had been lost since the course opened in 1919.

The Pebble Beach Company has now made a five year commitment to undertake 198 annual dives to collect golf balls at 11 sites around the course. And the college student who started this project has determined that some of the collected balls will become art - a representation of a barreling wave with a surfboard, to give one “the feeling of being barreled in a wave of trash.” A lot of things we do for recreation can cause significant environmental harm. Lead contamination at shooting ranges is one example where there is some substantial history of legal liability. Golf courses with scenic and environmentally sensitive water hazards are becoming aware that they could be next.

Information referenced in this post can be found in Priyanka Runwal’s “Where did all these golf balls come from?