What happens to the golf balls that are hit in a lake?

What happens to golf balls that are hit in a lake? (Jack Dennis)

Diver Kasey Pendergast recovers over 3,000 balls each day

‘Sun Fish are my audience…’

“All golf balls after they have been hit once are used golf balls,” says Kasey Pendergast, a 31-year-old from San Antonio, Texas who makes his living diving for golf balls. “My job is to retrieve them so they can be recycled and resold with an economic advantage for the golfing consumer.”

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Pendergast is a certified diver contracting for PG Golf Professional (PG), the number one golf recycling company in the world, out of Sugarland, Texas. Modern golf balls are made of various types of plastic, so they don’t absorb water. The company currently services over 2000 golf courses across the United States and recover in excess of 42 million golf balls from golf course ponds, deserts, and forests.

Kasey Pendergast shows 72,000 golf balls (70 bags x 600 balls per bag) in his trailer at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf. (Jack Dennis)

“My goal is to recover three to four thousand balls each day,” Pendergast said, during a quick break from a pond dive at Hole #4 of the Black Jack course at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf and Country Club northwest of San Antonio, Texas in November.

Like all PG divers, Pendergast is professionally trained to keep disturbances at a minimum, and carries two layers of $2,000,000 liability insurance.  Wayward golf shots, hit daily by golfers around the world, provide a never-ending supply of high quality golf balls. Pendergast says that “besides getting to be my own boss and enjoying peaceful environments, I like knowing my work provides very worthwhile ecological advantages.”

Pendergast explains that he “sets up a grid, knowing that the pond is shaped like a bowl, deeper at the base. When I first started doing this I saw something that looked like jelly fish, but soon discovered they were trash bags that had blown into the water. It was weird.”

When asked what he enjoys most, Pendergast laughs, “The peace and quiet. The sun fish are my audience. They are very curious as they watch me work and will come in close. Sometimes they will come up to feed off my goggles.”

“Turtles will run off quick,” he observed, as he loaded a 60 pound netted bag of about 600 balls on his cart. “As will snakes. I have rarely encountered in snake. They hide. And I have never seen a water moccasin.”

Pendergast retrieves golf balls at about 60-70 golf courses in Texas most of the year and up to 40 in Colorado during the summer. His area includes San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Laredo, El Paso, Amarillo, Lubbock, San Angelo, south of Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.

Today’s Golf Balls are Very Resilent

“The questioning of the performance of recycled balls may have been relevant years ago when balls were made differently, but golf balls today are constructed completely different and are very resilient,” according to the PG website. “After golf balls have been retrieved from some of the best courses across the United States, PG uses a proprietary and environmentally friendly cleaning system designed to wash each ball without causing damage to its original condition.”

Kasey at Black Jack #4 pond, Fair Oaks Ranch Golf and Country Club, Nov. 2017. (Jack Dennis)

Once cleaned, the used golf balls are separated according to make, model, and condition. The condition of each golf ball determines its grade and allows them to systematically separate the good golf balls from the excellent golf balls.

PG markets their recycled balls under several brands. The Reload® brand “offers a widely diversified line of recycled golf balls, from top selling premium lines to practice grades, and is the number one selling recycled golf ball brand in the world.” The Hunter® brand is sold exclusively by Walmart.

There are 360 million new golf balls sold in the US each year. PG sells about 50 million of recycled balls annually and owns 10 percent of the overall golf market. They sell close to twice as many golf balls as Bridgestone and TaylorMade. Testing is done every year on used golf balls versus new golf balls at a testing site in Southern California. Tests show little to no difference in how far used balls fly compared to New.

Golf balls are constructed with a solid core and one or multiple covers, thus there is no compression loss over time. Aerodynamics are the only thing that can affect the flight negatively. Badly damaged covers or severe loss of the painted coat can affect the flight negatively.



Fair Oaks Ranch Golf & Country Club (Club Corp photos)

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1 Comment on "What happens to the golf balls that are hit in a lake?"

  1. Would like to know what he uses to retrieve golf balls.

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