Kit up your Scuba Gear, don your dive mask and head off to the local Golf Course to dive in the water trap on the 9th Hole?? Sound peculiar? Welcome to the world of Scuba Golf Ball retrieval, a little known scuba diving job which involves a lot of hard work but rich rewards.
The Scuba Diving golf ball retrieval business is an estimated $200 million industry in America alone, with millions of golf balls falling into the nation’s golf course water hazards each year. It is estimated that the average golfer loses up to 5-6 balls a game.
Most divers in this business are independent contractors that typically pay the course a nominal fee for exclusive rights to retrieve the courses golf balls, usually up to a few cents per found ball. Some courses on the other hand allow contractors to retrieve the golf balls in exchange for supplying the course with a portion of the refurbished balls. Even an independent retriever can recover up to 150,000 to 300,000 golf balls a year.
The actual money earned by Golf Ball retrieval comes from recycling the found golf balls and selling them back to courses or golfers, which is a task more easily said than done. Each golf ball has to be cleaned thoroughly through a series of complicated cleaning processes and are usually polished or re-coated to remove scratches and nicks before being re-circulated. This job is often performed by Golf Ball recycling companies that process and repackage the golf balls, and market them as well. Retrieval divers sell their haul to the recycling companies at once again a few cents per ball recovered. However there are a few independent retrieval divers that clean and process their own hauls, and selling them back to golfers which is where the real money lies.
Golf ball recovery diving is simply carried out for financial reasons and is by no means a fun activity where you get to explore a new dive environment and search for sunken treasure. Golf ball diving is no easy work, water hazards are usually murky, muddy, weed filled or chemical filled making diving in them far from the enjoyable recreational diving most of us are familiar with. Lifting heavy bags of golf balls, or trawling the pond beds for balls is often a tiring process, and each ball is only worth a few cents, so a diver will have to retrieve as many as he possibly can in a day to make his effort worth his while, making working hours long as well. Often course ponds and lakes are deep, and recovery from murky deep waters is a tricky business.
In addition to all the hard gritty labor, animals such as gators, snakes, and snapping turtles are a frequent job hazard that retrieval divers need to be constantly on the lookout for.
The minimum qualification one would need to get into the trade of golf ball recovery is that of an Open Water certificate from any of the recognized Scuba certification agencies. It is advisable to start off this career apprenticing with an experienced golf ball recovery diver before setting off on your own, to learn the techniques involved.