Tips For Golf Ball Hunting — (Professional Advice)

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If you play golf regularly, you probably do some casual golf ball hunting from time to time. It typically happens when you spray shot towards the woods or a water hazard. While looking for your ball, you might stumble across a treasure trove of lost golf balls.

You might have some questions about golf ball hunting, like whether it is legal and where are the best places to look for lost golf balls.

The Tell Me More Golf team will give you tips for golf ball hunting, including the best times and the places to look on the course that are magnets for errant golf shots.

tips for golf ball hunting with tell me more golf expert research with expert instructions

How To Go Golf Ball Hunting

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Because golf ball hunting is a broad term, we’re going to look at the two main types of golf ball hunting: casual and professional.

Casual Golf Ball Hunting

Casual golf ball hunting is not illegal, and is part of the game for many golfers.

Don’t slow your fellow golfers down or the group behind you. You’ve got three minutes after you declare your ball lost, so make the most of it and pick up a few golf balls.

Sure, there will be some Top Flites in there, but if you’re lucky, you’ll also find some Titleist Pro V1s, some TaylorMades, Bridgestones, and a few Callaways for good measure. Keep the ones you like and either store the others in a shag bag or chuck them back into the woods for the next golfer.

Professional Golf Ball Hunting

The golf course typically pays for this type of ball hunting for people to go out and find lost balls. Especially in water hazards like ponds and lakes where they can dive and harvest hundreds if not thousands of golf balls.

The golf course can have the golf ball hunter pay for the golf balls they find, generally between .07$-.15$ per. The golf ball hunter then can sell them to a ball recycler or refurbisher for significantly more.


The best advice for golf ball hunting is to know the golf course that you’re playing. Since most golfers are right-handed and hit slices, looking around 150-200 yards and right of most tee boxes is a great place to start.

It’s advisable to walk when you’re golf ball hunting because you’ll be able to go where golf carts can’t go easily.

One of our favorite ways to find a lot of quality golf balls is to play an early morning round the day after a big charity golf tournament. Just follow the right-hand rough around the golf course, and it’s guaranteed you will come back with golf balls.

Another trick is to pick through the basket of golf balls at the driving range and see if there are any quality golf balls that people have hit out or were hit onto the range and then scooped up.


Is Golf Ball Hunting Illegal?

Suppose you’re slipping onto your local golf course in the evenings or the early mornings without permission, then yes. In that case, it is trespassing and is illegal.

Depending on how many golf balls you harvest, it might even be a felony in some states.

If you shank a shot into the woods, look for your ball, and come out with a pocketful of Callaways, and Pro V1s, then no, this is not illegal. However, look out for ticks, snakes, poison ivy, and the group of golfers behind you.

FAQ Section

How much do golf ball hunters make?

Professional golf ball hunters, especially divers, can make between $50,000 and $150,000 a year. In addition, part-time golf ball hunters can make a couple of hundred dollars daily by collecting and selling them to wholesalers, refurbished, or on eBay.

Many golf courses will have volunteers, and junior golfers look for lost golf balls in the rough and wooded areas.

How much can you make diving for golf balls?

Divers can make between $50,000 and $150,000 a year diving for golf balls. However, it’s not easy work, and you need to be a certified, experienced diver to do the job.

According to an article on CNN, golfers in the US and UK are charged between .07-.10$ a ball by the golf courses from whose lakes the divers harvest the golf balls. They can then turn around and sell the golf balls to a refurbisher for around .75$ per golf ball.

How do you collect golf balls from the lake?

If you have a golf ball retriever, you can extend it and get many golf balls from standing on the shore. Always look for wildlife near water hazards like snakes and alligators, and be careful not to fall into water hazards.

With permission from the course, and some diving gear and experience, you can dive and harvest golf balls from the bottom of the pond or lake. This job is for certified, professional divers with experience diving in murky conditions. Divers will wear gloves and use mesh bags to scoop up golf balls from the bottom.

Where can I find a lost golf ball?

Wooded areas and the rough on the right side of the golf course are great places to find lost golf balls. You can also look at water hazards, especially if you have a golf ball retriever and can grab the ones that have just skipped into the water.

Typically the further you get from the cart path and the harder it is to get to in a golf cart, the more golf balls you will find. Especially shots that golfers topped from the tee. Many golfers are too embarrassed to look for the ball in the rough that close to the tee box.

How do I start a golf ball diving business?

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, one of the first steps to becoming a certified golf ball diver and starting your own business is to get certified for unrestricted commercial scuba diving. Divers can get certified through an accredited scuba diving program or on-the-job training.

You’ll then want to do some research and find golf courses with lakes or ponds that get enough volume to make it worth your while to harvest golf balls through them. Talk with the management at the golf course and see if they are willing to let you dive and the rates they will charge you per golf ball.
The best way to build your business is through referrals to other golf courses and also marketing your business to golf courses locally and regionally.

Conclusion: Research by

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While golf ball hunting may be frowned upon by golf purists, it is not illegal when done casually in the ordinary course of a round. 

Just be respectful to the course and your fellow golfers, don’t spend too much time looking for golf balls, and slow down the pace of play.

The best place to hunt for golf balls is down the right side in the rough and wooded areas off of most tee boxes. It’s also a good idea to hunt for golf balls where golf carts have difficulty getting to, as most people in a cart will stay in it instead of looking too hard for their golf ball.  

While diving for golf balls can be lucrative, it requires a lot of training and patience to work in challenging, sometimes dangerous conditions. 

If you’re going out and harvesting golf balls from diving in lakes and ponds, be sure to get the permission of the golf course management before doing it. At the least, you’ll be trespassing; at the worst, you could commit a felony.


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