You don’t even have to play golf in order to realize that it is a health hazard. According to the Golf Digest, an estimated 40,000 people each year seek emergency treatment due to injuries caused by errant golf balls and flying club heads.
A hit to the head can cause cerebral hemorrhage. Researchers say that the most vulnerable portion is on the temporal area, which is the side portion of the head. That’s because it’s the thinnest part of the skull and yet, it covers a main artery.
When a golfer clubs the ball into the air, it becomes a speeding projectile.
Littering the Sea Floor
Until three years ago, nobody was aware of how widespread this problem was. It wasn’t until two teenagers, diving in a beach near a golf course in California, found the watery grave of the golfers’ “hit-misses” that the true extent of the problem was revealed.
Alex Webber and her friend, Jack Johnston, was just minding their own business and enjoying their dive at Stillwater Cove in Pebble Beach when they discovered that the seafloor had become white.
It wasn’t because of coral bleaching. It was because the entire seafloor was covered by golf balls.
Aghast by her discovery, she contacted a researcher at Stanford University to report her findings. The researcher suggested a collaboration to further study the problem.
The result was the first ever paper on golf ball marine pollution which highlighted another aspect of how golf courses can pollute the marine environment.
Polluting the Environment
Golf courses have long been criticized because of the negative impact that they bring to the environment.
Golf course maintenance uses a lot of fresh water resources which are better used for agriculture and consumption. It is also a wasteful use of land resources which could be better put into good use for housing and production.
Even more problematic is the use of toxic herbicides and fertilizers to keep its greenery fit for playing golf. These chemicals are very toxic because they can persist in the ground for years, making the soil unhealthy for anything else to grow.
And because there are no deep root tree systems to hold the soil in a golf course, a portion of these chemicals are easily washed off along with the top soil when the rains come. This run-off then pollutes other waterways or rivers, and in the case of Pebble Beach Golf Links, the ocean.
America is full of golf courses. There are now approximately 16,000 nationwide, by far the most of any country in the world. UK only comes at a distant second at 2,741. And while not every course is situated near a river or the beach, even a single one, like Pebbles Beach is enough to cause sufficient harm to the local marine environment.
— Derek Dodds, Wave Tribe Founder
Impacting the Food Chain
According to Webber’s research, there is an estimated two to five million golf balls that are littering the seafloor of Stillwater Cove. This represents an accumulation of years and years of careless dumping of balls by golfers and the indifference of park management.
Each ball is equivalent to the mass of seven plastic grocery bags or three plastic water bottles, she said.
The balls are bad for the environment because as they break down, some release a core that includes about 300 yards of stretched rubber, which is wound around a smaller ball at its core.
The rubber floats to the surface, mixing with the kelp while the cover disintegrates into smaller shards of plastic, which are eaten by plankton and other marine life. This is how micro-plastics can get into the food chain.
Golf ball manufacturers also add zinc oxide, zinc acrylate and benzoyl peroxide to the solid core for flexibility and durability. When these leach out from the golf balls, they are toxic to marine life.
Clear and Present Danger
So basically we can add the golf ball to the list of things that can kill our marine wildlife. And the implications of this problem is not easy to ignore.
America is full of golf courses. There are now approximately 16,000 nationwide, by far the most of any country in the world. UK only comes at a distant second at 2,741.
And while not every course is situated near a river or the beach, even a single one, like Pebbles Beach is enough to cause sufficient harm to the local marine environment.
If a golf course like that can result to five million golf balls littering the seafloor, how much more could bigger beach golf courses generate?
Engaging in Green Sports
Going over these facts, I can’t help but be more aware of how golfing really is an unsustainable sport in comparison to surfing. It seems silly enough as a sport; I mean, how satisfying is it to hit a small piece of ball into a small hole in the ground, anyway? And at such a cost for the environment?
Which is why it makes me love surfing even more. Not only does it throw you into direct contact with the ocean but it also makes you become more aware about how everything you do impacts the health of the marine environment.
Sure, most of the surfing industry is still using toxic petroleum by-products for surfing gear but there’s more of us now who are shifting to sustainable and renewable sources to produce eco-friendly surfing products.
We’re also producing more, because there is a rising consumer demand. And that’s a very positive thing. Perhaps that’s what golfing needs. Someone to start producing eco-friendly balls that degrade naturally in the environment. Or relocate golf courses elsewhere.
The Green Movement in surfing started because of a few good, eco-conscious people. It then became a wave because a lot of us supported and pushed for it. Maybe it’s about time that the golfing industry should start looking at its eco-friendly options as well. With greenhouse warming well over the threshold, it would be irresponsible of us not to take action.
So if you play golf, please don’t aim your “hit-misses” into the ocean. The ocean will be a much healthier environment without another stray, toxic ball polluting its ecosystem.
Or you can always give up golf and take up surfing. Here at WaveTribe, we’ve got an awesome selection of stylish and eco-friendly surfing gear to help you get started riding the waves.
Check out our site and prepared to get stoked!