Biodegradable Golf Balls and Tees Offer Best Options – But Don’t Forget to Take Care of the Greens, Too

Golf seems like such an innocuous sport, but it can have a pretty significant environmental impact. Leaving aside the considerable quantity of pesticides, fertilizers and water used to keep greens green, consider lowly golf balls. These small spheres are practically indestructible so they can withstand the force of a powerfully swung club. They don’t crack up when they’re hit; you can imagine how long they take to decompose if they’re lost in the woods. It’s estimated that more than 100 million golf balls end up in rivers, lakes, streams, forests, and meadows each year. That’s a lot of balls for Mother Nature to contend with.

Golf balls Enter the biodegradable golf ball. Dixon ($39.95 per 12-pack; pictured left) has developed a biodegradable ball that decomposes in water and leaves no residue behind.  Another benefit: each Dixon pack includes a return mail pouch so you can easily recycle old balls for new ones. EcoGolfBalls are cheaper at $10 for a pack of 12, and also degrade quickly in water. Wilson Eco-core golf balls are molded around recycled rubber tires, though they don’t biodegrade. All three brands come in recyclable packaging made from recycled materials.

What about other golf gear?

Golf Tees: Biodegradable golf tees are becoming the rage for golfers concerned about their eco-impact. Dixon, Ecogolf, and  Golf Tee XT  all make biodegradable tees. Ask the pro shop to order them if they’re already not in stock. You can also check local sporting goods stores and Wal-Mart, as well as online.

Wilson_7147714 Golf Bags

Currently the only eco bag on the market is the Wilson Staff Eco-Carry, made from recycled plastic soda bottles. It's lightweight and durable, given the fibers are essentially respun plastic fabric.

Clothing: Pickings are slim in the eco-friendly golf wear department. All Apparel & Accessories sells a variety of reasonably priced polos for men and women made from 100% organic cotton.  Spreadshirt offers men’s and women’s tees in a polyester/organic cotton blend. Dixon sells caps made from organic cotton. At least as far as we can tell, nobody’s making plaid golf pants out of recycled fibers.

What about golf courses themselves? Golf Digest does a good job here of enumerating the specific environmental challenges conventional golf courses post.  Featured quote:  "THE PESTICIDES THAT GOLF COURSES USE, AND THE ONES THAT PEOPLE THROW ON THEIR LAWNS, PERHAPS ARE NOT AS SAFE AS WE BLITHELY ASSUME THEM TO BE."

Meanwhile,Audubon International has created a Cooperative Sanctuary program to help golf courses conserve water, minimize chemical use, and protect wildlife.

Want to see who’s doing it right? Check out  Greenopia’s list of the seven most eco-friendly golf courses.

(Research assistance by Katie Kelleher)

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9 Responses to Biodegradable Golf Balls and Tees Offer Best Options – But Don’t Forget to Take Care of the Greens, Too

  1. Athrun Cruz July 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    So, these golf balls just decompose whenever its moist out there? These are kinda safe then when alligators swallow them.

  2. Diane MacEachern January 29, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    They’re supposed to perform just as well as conventional golf balls. Why don’t you try them and let us know? We’d appreciate it (I’m not a golfer, so I’m not sure whether I’d be the best judge of actual performance!). Thanks.

    • Mark December 17, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      I am not sure if any Dixon golf balls are biodegradable. “Earth-Friendly” yes, whatever that means. Each golf ball should be considered litter. In my town there’s a $100 fine for littering…but…they don’t enforce it except for exceptional offenders. Multiply that $100 for each ball and I imagine you’ll suddenly have some action on this issue. I would like to know where the 100 million lost golf balls statistic comes from? There are certainly millions of golf balls produced each year. Where do they go? The answer is, like your car keys, where you left them.

      I scrounge hundreds (thousands?) of golf balls at my local cheesy 9 hole course. The reason is they don’t manage the weeds. There is fairway and out-of-play and nothing in between. Any golfer with the slightest hook or slice needs to bring an extra dozen golf balls to the course. No lie! Golfers won’t even attempt to retrieve their balls. There are thorn bushes, poison ivy, deer ticks, spider webs and huge piles of deer pooh. It’s basically due to management that doesn’t care.

      If there is a biodegradable golf ball that outperforms usual suspects and is cheaper, somebody needs to get the word out!

  3. Diane MacEachern June 21, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    Thanks, Alan. I hope you’ll come back!

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  8. Diane MacEachern November 19, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Thanks for all your comments.

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