If you’re like me, you’ve seen people do it (or have done it yourself)…that is, purposely hitting golf balls into a body of water.
Many golf courses have picturesque water views but no matter how good or bad you are, it’s on you to make the ethical decision. It is actually considered illegal by definition, but as I’ll describe in this post, there is a safe and legal way to do it.
In this blog post, I’ll break down what you need to know before attempting to hit a golf ball into a pond, lake, ocean, or other body of water.
Is it legal to hit golf balls in the water?
Intentionally hitting golf balls into a public body of water is technically illegal in many municipalities, with this practice falling into the category of littering.
Even though many golfers admit to occasionally doing it due to it being difficult to police, it really is a moral issue and disrespect for nature. So, c’mon dads, do the right thing.
Unless you own a small private pond, it’s just something to be mindful of if you’re using real golf balls.
The possibility of getting fined does exist
However, you can technically get caught and fined for hitting golf balls into bodies of water.
Benning DeLaMater, a spokesperson for New York’s State Department of Conservation confirmed this reality with an AP reporter:
“If someone is purposely hitting golf balls into a body of water (as opposed to someone who does so by fault of a nasty slice) they can be subject to a ticket for littering and fines.”
It’s also typically against most golf course policies to purposely hit golf balls off course into public bodies of water.
Once your golf ball leaves the course or your private property it is essentially considered litter. It’s been estimated Americans lose around 300 million golf balls a year.
Environmental concerns related to hitting golf balls into bodies of water
Considering what golf balls are made of, the environmental concerns are quite legitimate assuming you are using standard golf balls.
Traditional golf balls don’t decompose
The main issue with hitting golf balls into the ocean or another body of water is that traditional golf balls are made of dense plastic that does not readily decompose.
While golf balls break down slowly, the plastics, resins, and rubber they are composed of can still leach toxins into the water.
Others argue that golf balls break down so slowly that they pose little threat to the environment, but they can be disruptive as well.
Possible ecological disruption
Introducing trash in the form of plastic can have an impact on many ecosystems as well, especially in small ponds or lakes where the volume of golf balls is noticeable.
Over time, it just makes it harder for fish and other bottom-dwellers to live free of this debris.
While the tone of this post has been pretty negative surrounding this practice, there is a right way to hit golf balls into a body of water: biodegradable golf balls.
Tip: Always use biodegradable golf balls
If you are looking to hit golf balls into a lake, private or public consider biodegradable golf balls only on private bodies of water only where permitted to do so.
Composed of corn starch, or polylactic acid (PLA), and even fish food, biodegradable golf balls are an environmentally friendly solution.
Biodegradable golf balls are readily available onlinr like this set on Amazon. They are produced by a Canadian company and completely dissolve within 4 weeks.
Slash City also produces a golf ball filled with fish food which is pretty cool.
Playing golf legally on lakes or oceans? A few items to have
Believe it or not, playing with eco-friendly golf balls has led to several water targets for golf on the market.
Below are a few helpful products to have to get started as a hobbyist.
- Floating targets: The Float ‘N Chip is a significant-sized mat and is a great option for adding a green to your pool.
- Mats: Many of the more affordable inflatable targets also come with mats for teeing off. This 4′ x 4′ mat is a good choice if you have a private bond and the right type of golf balls for water use.
Hitting golf balls off a yacht or a boat
Some people are also deciding to take their golf game offshore when used in combination with floating targets and a pretty large boat or yacht.
Just know what the law says in regards to teeing off on a boat with biodegradable golf balls and a golf mat.
As always, keep your distance and direct your shots away from other boats if you go this route. The last thing you want is to get fined by the coast guard!
A new industry: waterfront driving ranges and experiences
Believe it or not, waterfront golf experiences like driving ranges that are situated on lakes and larger bodies of water are on the rise.
These generally contain a combination of floating targets to aim at.
Splash City Golf
One company that has emerged as a leader in this category is Splash City Golf in Maryland who has been in the business since 2016.
As you can tell by the video below, they offer a fun and creative experience using drone-operated floating targets.
An odd, but a pretty clever business model if you ask me.
So there you have it, everything you really need to know about this topic!
While hitting normal golf balls into public bodies of water is definitely a no-no, there are some safe and clever ways you might just be able to take your love of golf to your waterfront paradise.