Confessions of a Former Ball Hawker
By bkuehn1952 on 9/22/11
We've reached an oobgolf milestone today--Brian Kuehn submitted his 25th post! Since we first asked readers to submit stories, Brian has delighted us with his tales from the deepest, darkest, happiest and brightest parts of the golf course. In case you missed any of them along the way, I've linked them out here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Enjoy Brian's 25th submission!

I do not remember exactly when I turned into a ball hawk. I suspect it occurred after my parents moved to Florida. They lived off the 15th fairway of the TPC at Prestancia in Sarasota, FL. During one of my visits I noticed a large bucket filled with various golf balls. When I asked my father about it he explained that just before sunset he would occasionally walk along the small lake that ran down the entire left side of the 15th hole. As he strolled along he would pluck balls out of the hazard. Every day there was a new supply. One evening I joined him and was amazed at the number and quality of the balls we retrieved. I was hooked.

Upon returning to Michigan I purchased a ball retriever and began ball hawking in earnest. Soon my ball collection was threatening to overrun the basement so I resorted to giving balls away. My nephew and stepson would get a pop corn tin filled with top of the line balls each Christmas. Beginners or anyone expressing even a passing interest in the game got a pop corn tin of Top Flites and Pinnacles.

Like a veteran fisherman, I developed favorite “fishing holes”: the cross hazard on #9 at Pierce Lake, the OB left of #3 at Hudson Mills, the drain pipe on #2 at Huron Hills, etc… When I played mid-week and no one was behind me, it was not unusual to return home with 75 or more balls. Often I would detour into the parking lot when going from #9 green to the 10th tee to empty my bag because it was so heavy.

Fortunately, my wife stepped in and called a halt to the madness. She pointed out that I had several life times of golf balls sitting in the basement. She did not want to be a human interest story some day about the widow stuck with 50,000 golf balls in her basement. Further, if I kept bringing more balls home she was going to be a widow a lot sooner than I might want. I got the message.

Now I am very selective about the balls I bring home (Pro V’s, Nike One, Callaway i(z), etc …). Anything else I find I leave on the course at the next tee. I no longer carry a ball retriever and limit myself to surveying the edge of the woods or heavy grass areas. Slowly I have reduced the basement stash by bringing and leaving my own supply of balls at the range. Like a recovering drug addict, however, I need to be constantly on guard less I slip back into my old ways.

If my tragic story is not enough to warn you off, then here are a few tips from a former ball hawk:
  • Autumn afternoons and mid-week – Most of us hate getting held up by slow players so if you are going to indulge in ball hawking, do it when the course is not busy. In the Midwest I have found late Autumn afternoons to be the best time. Generally there are only a handful of players on the course and balls have been getting lost for 5-6 months. Mid-week also offers fairly open conditions at many courses.

  • Work the right side – most golfers are right-handed slicers. If there is a hazard, dense grass or a forested area on the right side of the fairway, that is the place to look.

  • Where you find one ball, there often are more – If you spot a ball in the woods, look around. Often the same factors that led that ball to be there also caused several others to land in the same place. Lost balls tend to come in bunches.

  • Quality courses = Quality balls – people lose high quality golf balls at top notch courses. The piles of Pro V’s people lose at Torrey Pines is unbelievable. When I play our local muni, Pinnacles, Noodles and Callaway Big Bertha’s are the rule.

  • Watch out for poison ivy & things that might kill you – There is only one small rattle snake native to Michigan and it is on the endangered species list. The most serious concern up here is poison ivy. As one goes south or west, there are critters that will kill and/or eat you lurking in the hazards and woods. Be careful out there.

This was written by Brian Kuehn, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo by BradWilke

[ comments ]
Banker85 says:
congrats on your 25th article! another good one. I am not a ball hawk at all. I hate looking for a ball. If i cant find it within 3 minutes i give up. Now if i am looking for my ball and spot a few more i will pick up as many as i see but i dont go intentionally looking for them. I guess since i get a free golf balls from work is the main reason why i dont bother to look for my lost balls.
Kurt the Knife says:
My favorite hunting ground remains the beach below number nine and 10 at Pebble Beach.
Picked up about 6 Pro V1s during our stay in Carmel.
guzzlingil says:
I used to ball hawk with my Dad......good times.......
falcon50driver says:
After seeing the guy in Florida lying in a pool of blood with his right arm twisted off at the shoulder. And then seeing the gator swimming away with the arm in his mouth, I've become a little more careful around the water hazards. If you're a golfer, I'm sure you've seen it too.
brian575 says:
Funny I have this superstition that lost balls have bad mojo. I rarely ever pick up a ball, most of the time if I do I will give it to one of my playing partners. I suck too bad already, last thing I want to do is pick up a ball with all kinds of bad karma.
Kurt the Knife says:
@ brian.
Ain't no mojo in them Mojos.
More like the ball has abandoned an unworthy hacker waiting to be bestowed upon one more worthy.

My balls have high self-esteem.

Don't say iiiit...
homermania says:
The official bird of the American golfer is the Ball Eagle. Wah waaah.
legitimatebeef says:
I'm not a ball hawk but I'm glad for them. I've been getting "mint" grade balls on eBay--aside from occasional pen marks they are indistinguishable from new ones. Tons of nice golf balls are lost every single day, better that they get picked up and given a second life.
c5agalb says:
Ball hawking keeps me in the game. Hate to open a new sleeve of balls only to immediately slice one into the unknown. However, when I find 12 balls while waiting for a green to clear ahead of me, its like finding dollar bills all over the place.
ncramsey83 says:
Some of my favorite memories growing up were tagging along side my father at our local muni toting his bag and scouring the woods for golf balls while he hacked away. I was barely as tall as his golf bag but I insisted on trying to carry it. I really thought I was of great service, but in hindsight, I'm sure I was more of a nuisance than not. But I'm certain that he appreciated the many times I found his wayward shots and prevented him from incurring penalties for lost balls, not to mention the walk of shame back to re-tee the ball. I'm also certain that he was very appreciative of the well used and water logged Top Flites and Wisons that I drudged up for him and piled into his golf bag. Although this was long before any of us had ever heard of a Pro V-1, my guess is that no one at that course would've been playing them regardless!
garthspaulding says:
I am a total ball hawk. I do however limit my foraging to a few special "pay off" locations and I never make anyone wait as I hunt. I donate all playable balls that I personally won't play to my local first tee chapter.
shaffer1969 says:
Like Banker I don't spend a lot of time looking for my ball. The exception to this is league night or in a tourney if finding it saves me shots.

My home course has a resident ball hawk named Larry. He finds 1000s of balls a year (I think he told me 6-7K). He trades a lot of these in for a greatly reduced membership to the course.
lcgolfer64 says:
I was at a locoal muni course that I played quite a bit and found those 'hidden gem' locations that I woudl frequently check on my walk through 18 in the slow of the evening on weekdays. Course would be pretty much empty and my proceeds like Brian would go to my nephews. They loved it.

One treasure trove I found once was had to be the exhaustive work of a mis-guided squirrel.

I was checking a lost ball magnet area on a short dog-leg where "score deficit" golfers would try to cut the corner over the woods on a par 4 to try reach the green off the tee. [cont'd]
lcgolfer64 says:
I came upon a ball and hawked it. Looking closer in the wooded area, I saw a glimer of white barely visible inside a hollow log. I bent down and looked closer, only find a 'winter's worth food supply' of about 75-100 golf balls stashed inside the log! I grabbed a wedge and started forging them out and literally fileld my bag over flowing. I did my best to finish the last 4 holes carrying my way over-weighted bag.

I had to chuckle but also felt bad about the poor squirrel. Probably didn't survive the winter...
mjaber says:
I'm not a ball-hawker, though if I'm hunting for an errant shot, and happen upon another ball, I will pick it up. Depending on the ball, I'll either stick it in my bag, or give it away. I have no problem with people searching for balls, as long as they aren't holding up play. I've played with people who will search for 5-10 minutes for their ball, and come out of the woods with a dozen balls, none of which are the one they went in looking for.

If you have a large stash of "hawked" balls, and they are over-running your garage/basement/bag/house... donate them to the troops.
DougE says:
Don't hawk at all. Too scared of snakes. Scream like a girl. Also worry about ticks....and poison ivy. My attitude it keep it playable or kiss it goodbye.
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