Is Golf Ball Hawking Illegal?

You may have heard the adage ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. Golf ball hawking – searching for and keeping golf balls found on a golf course – is a great example of this. But, it can also be illegal depending on how you go about it.

In this article, we’ll explore what goes into legally hunting for golf balls and what consequences could follow if you don’t abide by the rules. From understanding lake-quality golf balls to knowing when it’s ok to search and when not, we’ll cover all the bases to help you understand the legality of salvaging golf balls.

Is Golf Ball Hawking Illegal
Photo Geoffrey Baker

Is It Illegal to Go On A Golf Course?

Searching for lost balls on a course can come with serious consequences, so it’s important to know if it’s allowed or not! Depending on the golf course, you may be able to find many golf balls around the grounds without permission.

However, some courses have strict rules against non-players being on the premises so it’s important to check with the management of the course before searching for any golf balls that may have been lost.

If you are caught trespassing on a course, you could face criminal charges and maybe even a fine or jail time. This should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to go searching for golf balls.

In summary, it’s important to remember that going onto a golf course without permission could lead to legal repercussions. Before embarking on your quest for finding balls, make sure you understand the rules associated with visiting a particular course and obtain any necessary permission from its management. Doing this will ensure that you don’t get into any trouble.

Obviously, if you are a member of the club or have paid a green fee then you will be ok to look for the odd ball as long as you aren’t holding up play.

How many balls can you find?

Hazards of Hunting For Golf Balls

Hunting for anything can be risky business, so it pays to know the risks involved before taking the plunge. Golf ball hunting is no exception. While there are certainly some rewards, such as finding a nearly new Pro V1 that you can sell or use yourself, there are also a few hazards associated with this activity.

The biggest hazard will be whether you should even be on the premises. If you aren’t a member or a green fee payer then you likely shouldn’t even be in the grounds much less scrumping for balls.

One of the most productive hunting grounds would be lakes and ponds. This is where you will get into trouble since most courses will have a contract with a diver that comes in regularly to clear out their water hazards. They won’t want you messing up a potentially lucrative income stream by slipping onto the course at dusk and fishing for balls.

If you just happen to be playing the course then having a search with a ball retriever is one thing but carrying diving gear is another. In certain parts of the world, you don’t know what’s in the water – maybe an alligator or two. Not sure I want to tangle with one of them just to get my TP5 back.

Even if there aren’t those sorts of hazards as a non-player you run the risk of getting hit with a golf ball which could cause you some serious damage.

Lake Golf Balls Quality

Have you ever wondered if the lake golf balls you find are of good quality? It’s an important consideration when it comes to your game!

We all love coming across a good quality ball while playing and even better if it looks nearly new! If you care about improving then you would probably be best avoiding lake balls as the performance of the ball will degrade if it is immersed in water for too long.

If you are only finding balls to use yourself then its less of a problem but if you are intending to sell them you need to make it clear whether the balls were found or recovered from a lake so people know what they are buying.

Keeping Found Golf Balls

If you find a golf ball while out on the course, it’s important to remember that keeping it is not always allowed. Firstly it could still be “in play”. If you find the ball in the rough separating two fairways then check to make sure no one is playing the other hole before pocketing the ball.

Whether you are on a private or public golf course you shouldn’t have any issues keeping balls you find as long as you have the right to be there and no one is still playing the ball.

If you aren’t supposed to be on the property then it’s obvious that you have no right to be searching for or keeping any balls you find. Even worse if you are then trying to sell the balls you find back to the golfers since most clubs will have a rule stating only the pro can sell equipment!

Searching For Golf Balls Legally

If you want to make a living searching for balls then you need to be more professional about the whole thing.

Asking permission before collecting any golf balls will keep you in the good books of your local clubs. 

If you’re allowed to search for lost golf balls, consider visiting courses late in the evening when they’re less crowded and traffic is minimal. You may also want to invest in diving gear if you plan on looking for golf balls at a nearby pond, lake or river.

In the UK many golf courses have public rights of way which means people often think they have the right to wander over the whole golf course looking for balls.


However, if you stick to the defined pathway and find a ball when no one is playing then sure you can pick that up.

Tips For Finding Balls

The key to never needing to buy golf balls is to know where to look. At every course, there will be certain spots that act like magnets to attract tee shots or approaches. You will need to learn where those are at your course to maximize your return!

Are You Selling The Golf Balls

Now that you know how to search for golf balls legally, it’s important to consider whether or not you’re allowed to sell them.

Selling golf balls can be a great way to make some extra money, but it’s important to understand the laws and regulations related to selling golf balls in your area.

Additionally, if you find yourself with a large number of golf balls from a pond or lake, it might be wise to check with the owner before attempting any kind of sale. Well, really you should be getting a deal sorted before recovering them.

Real World Golf Ball Hunting Cases

Stephen Thewlis was a professional golf ball hunter who made a living by finding lost golf balls and selling them.

He had previously collected up to 600 balls a day by his searching, selling his finds back to golfers for 10p each. Many golfers have found it difficult to find their own lost balls, so they turn to people like Thewlis who are willing to do the hard work for them.

It’s not an easy job though; you need to be prepared for long hours spent combing through rough terrain and dealing with poison ivy or other hazards. But if you’re up for the challenge, it can be a great way to make some extra money while enjoying the outdoors.

A lot of people have taken up this hobby as a side hustle and it’s definitely worth considering if you’re looking for something new and exciting!

Is Golf Ball Hawking Illegal: Conclusion

In most cases, it’s legal to search for golf balls on a course as long as you’re not disturbing the game or stealing from players. However, if you’re selling the found balls or you are on private property without permission then you might be liable for trespassing.

So if you want to go looking for golf balls, make sure you do your research and stay within the rules of the game – otherwise, you could find yourself in hot water!

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