What’s the most insidious pollution wracking Mother Earth these days? If you guessed fossil fuel exhaust, nuclear waste, or nasty cow farts, no, no, and maybe yes but probably no. The real answer? That drive you hooked into the next zip code on 14 last Sunday.
Yes, if what CNN is saying is true, America’s golf habit is becoming increasingly toxic to the planet; in our country alone, we lose over 300 million golf balls a year. That means, if you extrapolate those numbers over the last 50 years… that’s, like, a billion.
The scale of the dilemma was underlined recently in Scotland, where scientists — who scoured the watery depths in a submarine hoping to discover evidence of the prehistoric Loch Ness monster — were surprised to find hundreds of thousands of golf balls lining the bed of the loch.
It is thought tourists and locals have used the loch as an alternative driving range for many years.
With an increasing number of golf balls discarded each year, the Danish Golf Association devised a number of tests to determine the environmental impact of golf balls on their surroundings.
It was found that during decomposition, the golf balls dissolved to release a high quantity of heavy metals. Dangerous levels of zinc were found in the synthetic rubber filling used in solid core golf balls. When submerged in water, the zinc attached itself to the ground sediment and poisoned the surrounding flora and fauna.
Course manager for the Danish Golf Union, Torben Kastrup Petersen, said the scale of the problem is unknown: “There has been very little research on the environmental impact of golf balls, but it’s safe to say the indicators are not good. We are planning to collaborate with environmentalists in America to conduct more tests to fully explore the extent of the problem.”
It seems a little silly, in retrospect, that someone could spend dozens of afternoons a year cranking drives toward God knows where without a second thought about its environmental impact, then run after a napkin that blew away so as not to litter.
If all this turns out to be the case, though - that golf balls are dangerous when they decompose - then we expect to see a booming market for waterproof, hole-proof pond nets, so country clubs and other courses can safely dredge their water hazards for balls every night (or week, month, whatever). Nets along the side of cliff-front golf courses? Sounds like blasphemy, but that’s too bad, because you just can’t help from swatting your ticking time bombs 50 yards left whenever you pull out anything bigger than a 5-iron.
It’s really either that or biodegradable balls (which, come on, no way). Once the environmental lobby starts getting into the pro shop, golf as we know it won’t be around much longer. Then again, it’s not like a special golf ball is all that’s keeping you from getting that handicap below 8, is it? Man up and use a ball that actually agrees with the natural order of the course.