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How Many Golf Balls Get Lost Every Year?

On 6 February 1971, astronaut Alan Shepard used a six iron to launch two golf balls into the great unknown of the Moon’s surface. Experts believe that extreme temperatures probably dissolved the balls years ago. But what about the estimated 300 million golf balls lost in the United States every year? In America and around the world, enterprising individuals are donning wetsuits to pluck balls from golf course lakes and ponds. For some, this translates to lucrative earnings in the repackaged golf ball market.

Lost, found, and recycled:

  • Divers typically pay golf courses 7 to 10 cents for every ball they find. Depending on condition and brand, golfers will pay an average of 75 cents for a recycled ball, up to $2 for a mint-condition Titleist Pro V1.
  • In 2015, a golf ball retriever in the U.K. who runs a company called Lake Ball Diving estimated that he earns as much as $150,000 USD a year (£100,000) reselling golf balls.
  • Working conditions for golf ball divers can be dicey. Ponds can be toxic stews, so divers wear head-to-toe protection. And then there are the lurking hazards -- from alligators and crocodiles to water snakes and snapping turtles.

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