Modern golf balls have certainly come a long way from the original hard wooden balls of the 17th century or the featherie and guttie balls (made from leather wrapped feathers and tree sap, respectively). They fly farther, truer, and hit better than any ball before them, but they do suffer from one design flaw these early balls did not; they take between 100 and 1,000 years to decompose on their own. In the past couple years more attention has been paid to this design flaw and some clever new balls have been created. Here are a few of the best!
The Eco Golf Ball
This ball is made from wood and, as a result, is 100% biodegradable. It was originally designed to be hit into fresh or salt water, mainly from cruise ships or courses that border the sea. It’s able to be hit over and over and won’t damage clubs. It meets all MARPOL V regulations and has the approval of the United States Coast Guard for hitting into the sea. The only downside to this ball is its 1.52 inch diameter, which is slightly smaller than a regular ball.
The Lobster Shell Golf Ball
The University of Maine has come up with a wonderful use for all the waste shells discarded as a by-product of the lobster canning industry; they turn them into golf balls. The otherwise wasted lobster shells are crushed and mixed with a biodegradable coating that binds the whole concoction together. Although the lobster balls don’t fly quite as far as regular golf balls, they perform within the spectrum of the other eco-friendly, biodegradable balls.
The Fish Food Golf Ball
Albus Golf has come up with a win-win for golfers and fish with the first golf ball made from a fish food core. This golf ball is perfect for golfers who want to hit balls from cruise ships, jetties, seafront hotels or resorts, and even boats, oil rigs, yachts, or into lakes and rivers. As soon as the ball enters the water it begins to biodegrade. A process that takes a meager 48 hours to finish, and with a core made from fish food, once the shell degrades the fish can feast. Whether the ball performs the same as a normal ball, or not, remains to be seen.
Dixon Eco-Golf Balls
Dixon Golf has taken a different approach to the eco-friendly re-invention of the golf ball. While other companies are making balls that biodegrade Dixon is producing balls that are easy to recycle and contain non-toxic fillers. While regular golf balls release all sorts of toxic substances and heavy metals while they decompose, Dixon balls don’t. Once a ball has run the course of its normal life, it’s recycled into useful things like playground equipment or astro turf.
While golf ball manufactures have yet to find a 100% biodegradable ball that performs exactly the same and is allowed in competitive play, they’ve certainly made some great strides in reducing waste from recreational players, as well as irresponsible players who drive toxic, plastic balls into rivers, lakes, streams, and even the sea. Considering how far golf ball technology has come in the last 100 years, it’ll be interesting to see where it goes in the next 100 years.
David Bryce is an online publisher for Golf in Branson, MO at Thousand Hills. He blogs on the topics of golf, travel, and vacations and enjoys staying at Thousand Hills cabins in Branson. Photo by Carolina Alves