Pick your golf balls up! - Lots of golf balls disappear into lakes and fall outside the golf course, but because of the lack of test standards (among other things), it is difficult to say how much of an environmental problem this is By Torben Kastrup Petersen, M.Sc., Course Manager of the Danish Golf Union and Ole Riger Kusk, GEO-verifier. Golf balls should not be left lying around in nature, and a damaged golf ball should be thrown away with the regular waste, as it would otherwise take between 100 and 1,000 years for it to decompose naturally. This fact is impossible to disagree with, but nevertheless it is still a fact that golf balls get lost or land in a water hazard on a golf course. So the question is whether this can be regarded as a significant environmental problem, which golf as a sport ought to deal with differently in the future. As part of our consulting work in the Danish Golf Union, the question has been put to us several times about the environmental impact lost golf balls have on nature. Water hazards especially are affected by a large number of balls, so we thought it was relevant to investigate whether the chemicals that golf balls give off when in water constitute a threat to the environment. We quickly find out that the answer was not as easy to obtain as we thought. We got in touch with our networks abroad in the USA and in England, where we would have expected that this question had been raised and looked into already. But surprisingly, the answer was that they didn't know of any such investigations which would help us. So we therefore found ourselves in a situation where answering the question meant that we were pioneers. A smashed golf ball contains large amounts of zinc Earlier this year, we heard about an analysis of a damaged golf ball which showed high concentrations of, in particular, zinc and other damaging heavy metals. The result of the test only shows what is in the ball, but not what environmental impact it may have. A completely smashed golf ball will in practice never be found on a golf course. A lawnmower or an agricultural machine will at worst cut the ball into 2 or 3 pieces, but never completely pulverise it. Analysing a smashed golf ball will therefore not give any information about the potential environmental impact from golf balls. In addition, it is generally difficult to evaluate the potential for pollution from golf balls, as the extent and location are of course two significant factors to take into account. Even though it is difficult to determine the potential pollution threat from golf balls, caution dictates that damaged golf balls should in principle always be collected and disposed of properly. No standards for the test There are no standards for testing golf balls, and as it was not possible to find any tests abroad which could enlighten us about the subject, we had to construct a scenario which we ourselves felt was representative. The choice of analysis was not made easier by the fact that the different analysis institutes we contacted had different attitudes to how the analysis should be undertaken. In order to be able to compare the results to something, we eventually chose to have a standard analysis undertaken - as is used for classifying waste. A number of used balls recovered from a lake were used. We thought it was more realistic to use used balls because finding them in a water hazard is the most likely scenario.
Download PDF fil