Is It (REALLY THAT) Bad To Hit Golf Balls Into A Lake Or Ocean?

A diver in Lake Michigan retrieved slightly over 200 balls in under an hour, prompting a local golf course to ban hitting golf balls into the lake.

If you are an avid golfer, you have probably hit one into an ocean or lake, never to care about it thereafter.

But, Is It Bad To Hit Golf Balls Into A Lake Or Ocean?

In one word – “Yes.” Most golf establishments out there prohibit it. There are many reasons why the practice is bad.

Here is why:

1. Golf balls are bad for wildlife’s health

At a time when the world community is emphasizing the need for environmental conservation, hitting golf balls into water bodies is blatant disrespect for nature.

The planet knows better.

Plastic debris is overrunning the lakes, oceans, and every other water source.

Animals of all sizes and the entire food chain – whales, birds, seals, turtles, etc. – are gobbling up waste plastics and dying from them.

Seagulls, perhaps the most curious of all, have been spotted in golf courses pecking on golf balls and trying to carry them away.

In North America, where golf courses are aplenty than anywhere else on the planet, golf balls are thought to be one of the top contributors of marine plastic.

The exact number is unknown, but some experts estimate an excess of 300 million.

Even more heartbreaking is the fact that no one really knows the specific chemicals these balls might be pumping into the water and whether they pose a clear risk to the water ecosystem.

Microplastics have, however, been identified in almost all parts of the world’s oceans and lakes as well as in a range of marine life including seabirds, seabed worms, and whales.

Chances are high that the health of these marine animals is affected by the bits of plastic they bite from golf balls and other plastic pollutants.

The effect on human health too is still murky as well.

There’s just a lot we aren’t aware of yet, but there are tons of plastics everywhere in the world’s large water bodies and it shouldn’t be there.

The danger of leakage of toxic chemicals from materials used to make golf balls is quite low, partly because those materials are designed to degrade slowly underwater.

The size of pollution from these balls is probably not as significant as we might think, especially if you compare it to other plastics and metal wastes released in oceans every year.

However, the danger of swallowing these balls is real.

Once a golf ball is ingested, getting it out isn’t the easiest thing a marine animal the size of a turtle could try.

The core of a golf ball contains zinc acrylate and zinc oxide, which are put there to enhance the ball’s flexibility and durability.

Both compounds are regarded to be toxic in aqueous environments and have been found to invoke stress responses in some fish, crustaceans, and algae.

2. Interfering with breeding

When you club the golf ball high in the air, it instantly becomes a projectile.

If it hits any surface at that speed, it can fracture inward or inflict devastating injuries to living things.

This may sound far-fetched but try to picture tens or hundreds of such balls hurtling down daily into a certain location of the ocean or lake.

The falling balls can disrupt an ongoing breeding season for some aquatic animals that live close to the shore.

Most amphibians, for example, prefer to lay their eggs on still parts of the shoreline where they are expected to hatch after a few weeks.

Destroying a few strands of the delicate eggs can ruin the prospects of the rest of them ever hatching.

Falling golf balls can interrupt birds and turtles as well, compelling them to change their breeding spots.

3. Littering the seafloor

Until just recently, nobody knew the extent of golf ball-related pollution in the oceans.

It was not until two teens, diving in the shoreline near a Californian golf course, found the ocean graveyard of “hit-misses” that a clearer picture of the problem was revealed.

At first, they mistook the white carpet of golf balls on the seafloor with coral bleaching.

The two friends would contact researchers at Stanford University regarding the findings.

Studies were conducted to get a deeper understanding of the contribution of golf courses to environmental pollution.

4. Impacting the natural food chain

Part of the above-mentioned research estimates that between 2 to 5 million golf balls are littered on the seafloor off the east coast of the United States alone.

This represents decades-worth of accumulation either through careless dumping or “hit-misses” by golfers in the region.

The indifference of the management of the parks and golf courses towards the problem is often blamed for the accumulation of such a large amount of balls over a relatively short time.

Besides turning the seafloor into an ugly and perhaps uninhabitable place, golf balls are known to break down to release the core.

The core includes rubber parts that can stretch as long as 300 yards.

These rubber parts can float to the surface of the ocean to mix with the local kelp and blend into the food chain.

The cover may disintegrate into small shards of plastic that may end up in the mouths of small fish and plankton.

Are you worried you could be feeding on a golf ball through your shrimp?

According to The Conversation, you have all the reasons to be worried.


The practice of hitting golf balls into seas was once a source of thrill before it became a social taboo.

That’s why senior golfers are having a hard time conforming to the new environmental rules sweeping the golf courses.

As a result, a business opportunity all environmentalists and golfers could agree upon has been suggested.

If some golfers are not sensible enough to cease hitting balls into water bodies, maybe golfing establishments should set up shops on their tees, selling new biodegradable balls for, say, charity to raise funds to clean up lakes, streams, oceans, and streams.

Dixon Earth Balls, for example, is a line of 100 percent recyclable golf balls but are not biodegradable.

This way, some golfers could be allowed to swing away as they’re used to, giggling and laughing at a splash dropping of as many biodegradable balls as they want for a good environmental cause.

This sounds like a drive we’d all get behind, doesn’t it?


Is it bad to hit golf balls into a lake or ocean?

In one word – “Yes.” Not only do they pose a danger to marine life, but they also ruin the beautiful ecosystem on the seafloor. The cleanup isn’t cheap.



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When Golf Balls In The Ocean Are Harming The Environment