Scuba Jobs: Golf Ball Recovery Diving

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.

golfball underwater

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.

recovery covered

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.

Photos by: bill larnach, asbjorn.hansen

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  1. Kurt Morin says:

    If you really want to make money from diving then I suggest you look into commercial seafood harvesting. The best of these types of jobs can be found in Washington and Alaska where divers harvest seafood such as Urchins, Sea Cucumbers and Geoduck clams. Urchins is a slow grind but can be easy money making around $200 a day, Sea Cucumbers usually earns $4000 to $5000 a week during the season where you are only diving 2 days of each week, the real money maker is Geoduck clams, This year we were getting upwards of $10.00 a pound for the giant clams that average 2 pounds and can go over five pounds. A typical diver working one day a week (during the fishing season) can harvest 1000 lbs for the day and a good diver can go over 2000 lbs. I saw divers do over $20,000 for 4 hours of work.

  2. hey Kurt do you work in commercial seafood harvesting? if so how do you recommend getting in to it? Im happy to here there are diving job opportunities in Washington.

  3. I am a golf ball recycler and am always looking for large sources of golf balls. Especially interested in hearing from divers who get balls but don't want to clean and process them.

    • Karen, How do we contact you?

    • don/ teresa says:

      hi karen my dad and i r golfbaii retrivers we currently work summer months for a company n connititit we would like work now let us know if u know of any thing good thanks more than 25 years experance

    • Hello Karen. I plan to be starting my own golf-ball recovery business soon. I already have experience with collecting (my grandfather would do it from time to time) but due to circumstances I would rather not get into, I am not in a position to inquire to him as to where he would ship the balls. If you could e-mail me with some general info (your general location, the amount of balls you are looking to receive at any given time, pay per ball, ect.) I would greatly appreciate it.

  4. hey everyone my name is Eric and I'm a commercial diver for a living but are looking to make some extra money , Does anyone know any golf ball retrieval companies in Arizona. I am a master diver and open water instructor aswell

    • Hi, eric, jake and every golf ball retrievers on here. i work for a large golfing company in europe and i am looking to buy golf balls,, close to 150,000. If you or any friends are looking to sell large amount of balls each time they are collected please email me at my name is john and i am currently in the florida area looking to make business out the state

    • My name is Eddie I’m looking for pond run balls 20,000 a pallet
      Fort worth tx

  5. Hi All
    I work for a golf ball refurbishing company buying golf balls all year round!
    If anyone is commercial diver looking for a golf ball retrieval job please contact me via email asap

  6. Hello golf ball divers, I’m opening up a used golf ball retail store in Tempe, AZ and looking for a large supply of start up inventory. Who can help me out, or any suggestions on who to contact?

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