Christina MacFarlane of CNN reports that 300 million balls are lost or discarded in the United States every year! There were no numbers for world estimates, but you can bet it’s a lot because there are a lot of countries in which golf is being played. I think double the 300 million, would be a conservative estimate. The US might like to play “us versus the world” in those team golf tournaments like the Ryder Cup, but that doesn’t mean they have half the golf players, courses and balls in the world.
Furthermore, each golf ball is estimated to require 100 to 1000 years to decompose naturally. This is according to simulations done by research teams at the Danish Golf Union. It had to be simulations because the golf balls of today haven’t been around 100 years.
In case you don’t think golf ball pollution is a problem, though, scientists who scoured the depths of Scotland’s Loch Ness in a submarine recently, hoping to discover evidence of the prehistoric Loch Ness monster, found hundreds of thousands of golf balls lining the bed of the loch!
That’s hundreds of thousands of golf balls!
Maybe the golf fanatics know about golfing around Loch Ness, but I sure as heck didn’t think there was that much golfing around there. At least not so close that hundreds of thousands of golf balls would be in the lake. It’s not like everybody shoots with the range of Tiger Woods, and even then, that’s not that far to get a golf ball into the loch!
Given the pollution of that magnitude, the poor monster is probably dead from either being pelted by stray golf balls, or having swallowed some in searching for food and picking up large morsels of things at the bottom.
Unfortunately, the pollution of golf balls is not just the presence of those balls. What’s in them is very bad for the environment.
The Danish Golf Association has 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. Then, removing a partially degraded ball from a lake or woodland area could result in further damage to the wildlife. It’s not all that simple as picking them up, though a few hundred thousand under water could be rather difficult.
So what can we do about the golf balls? Well, the easiest thing would be to stop playing golf. Golf balls are the least of golf’s environmental impact. Look at these statistics about golf courses from 2004… never mind 2009.
2.5 billion gallons – Amount of water it would take, per day, to support 4.7 billion people at the UN daily minimum, or the amount of water used, per day, to irrigate the world’s golf courses
23 – Number of golf courses in Japan before World War II
3,030 – Number in operation or soon to open in 2004
8.2 kg – Average amount of pesticides used per acre, per year, on golf courses (18.0 lbs), compared to just 2.7 kg (1.2 kg) used in the same time and space for agriculture (667% difference)
6,500 cubic metres (6.5 million litres) – Amount of water used by 60,000 villagers in Thailand, on average, per day, or one golf course in Thailand, on average, per day
150,000 acres – Current area of the wetlands of the Colorado River Delta, which now receives just 0.1 percent of the river water that once flowed through it, or the area that could be covered to a depth of 2 feet with water drawn from the Colorado River by the city of Las Vegas, which uses much of that allotment to water its more than 60 golf courses
Don’t forget all the travel, whether vacation or golf carts, involved and the emissions from it!
Really, is golf really worth all that?
Sure, the golf fanatics would say yes. But what if I were to tell you some other sport had that impact? Or every other sport out there had it since why put it on just one sport? Would you allow people to play that sport then?
But on the golf balls pollution issue, UK law maker Patrick Harvie had this advice:
“Keep your balls on the fairway or invest in a stock of biodegradable balls.”
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 7.1