When speaking to a greenkeeper friend of mine at a dinner party a while ago, I was staggered to hear how many thousands of non-biodegradable golf balls he dredges out of the lake every year.
It got me thinking…could biodegradable golf balls replace their plastic-laden counterparts?
It turns out that they very much can, and SPOILER ALERT some can even help feed the fish at the same time!
I’m not what you'd call a keen golfer. Or even a very good golfer, for that matter.
However, I work in an industry where business is often done on the golf course, so I’ve hacked my way around many courses (and lost plenty of balls) in my time.
In an effort to make my round more sustainable, I took on the task of finding the best biodegradable golf balls in the U.S.
It’s just a shame none of them can help with my chronic hook off the tee!
They Say: Ecobioball is the first ecological and biodegradable golf ball with fish food in its core to practice golf in marine environments. This water-soluble and 100% eco-friendly golf ball is the ideal one to practice your swing near to the water.
We Say: The golf courses I usually play in the Florida area have A LOT of water hazards, so it was important to find a ball that was gentle in marine environments.
The Ecobioball from Albus Golf is not just gentle and safe for marine flora and fauna - it goes one step further and actually feeds the fish!
Made from eco-friendly biopolymers and a fish food core, these biodegradable balls (certified by the OECD) will fully degrade in around 48hrs, leaving nothing behind but fish food.
If you’re looking to shoot a low score (playing in a tournament, wanting to impress a client, etc.), then these balls might not be the right choice. They don’t fly as far as traditional golf balls (long irons may achieve up to 70-80% of the usual distance, and woods up to 60-70% of the usual distance).
However, if you’re practicing golf near water, or value your eco-credentials over the length of your drive, these fish food balls might be perfect.
I love using them when playing with clients because they’re very much ‘on message’ for TheRoundup and always a talking point.
Even if you don't lose the ball during your round, I would advise tossing it into the lake/ocean before hitting the 19th for a well-earned beer (especially if the course was damp). These balls are not designed to play multiple rounds over multiple weeks.
If you're planning on playing close to the water a lot, or just fancy letting off some steam by hitting balls into a lake or ocean, you can save a few bucks and bulk buy the 200 pack.
They Say: Our water-soluble dissolving golf galls are a fantastic product for parties, events, cruise ships, and resorts. Also great for individuals with yachts or water/beachfront property. Composed predominantly out of cornstarch with a polyvinyl alcohol coating for protection, our biodegradable golf balls contain no form of heavy metals.
We Say: When researching an article for biodegradable golf balls, I had to test a brand called "Biodegradable Golf Balls".
Biodegradable Golf Balls degrade slower than Ecobioballs. It takes weeks rather than days (which is still acceptable in my eyes).
This slower rate of degradation means that the balls last longer and can be used for multiple rounds of golf over a period of about a week. After a week, they start falling apart, and performance drops off.
Speaking of performance, I found that Biodegradable Golf Balls flew further than Ecobioballs, but still not as far as standard golf balls.
If you’re playing a more serious round where your score counts, but you still don't want to sacrifice your eco-credentials, Biodegradable Golf Balls are probably a better option than Ecobioballs.
They Say: This mix will contain golf balls with a color cover. The brands and styles will be mixed, and the quality will be very good. The color golf ball mix is a great opportunity to try different types of golf balls and colors to see what works best for you and your golf game.
We Say: Ok. So these recycled golf balls are not biodegradable. But I've decided to include them because they’re quality recycled balls at an excellent price.
If you’re looking for colored balls but don't want to buy new and add to the U.S. golf ball waste problem, you can't go wrong with these balls at just 50¢ each.
The batch I got sent was of outstanding quality. A few of the balls were lightly scuffed, and around 15 had a company's logo stamped on them. But, they all performed like new.
Not keen on colored balls? These Titleist Recycled Golf Balls are also of excellent quality and good value for money.
Buying used balls means that no new resources were used to create your golf balls. They also perform better than the biodegradable golf balls I tested.
They Say: The Dixon Earth golf ball is green to the core. The Earth core is made from a proprietary polymer that maintains the playable properties of the ball but ensures that it is 100% renewable. In addition to the core, the entire Dixon Earth ball is manufactured with materials that can be recycled and used to make other consumer products. Even the packaging is made from 100% recycled material.
We Say: If you must buy new, and need ultimate distance/performance, these eco-friendly balls from Dixon Golf are a perfect choice.
They flew the farthest of all the eco-friendly balls I tested!
A return envelope is included with every order so you can return these balls to Dixon for recycling when they reach the end of their usable life. Dixon will even pay you $1 for every ball returned.
High-performance golf balls, packaged in recycled materials, and an easy-to-access end-of-life recycling program…nice work Dixon Golf!
Golf is one of the oldest modern-day sports in the world. Its origins date back to Scotland in the 15th century.
It was initially so popular that people started neglecting military training. This eventually led to the sport being banned by King James II in 1457.
Most people ignored the ban, and the sport exploded in popularity in the early 1500s, when King James IV of Scotland became the world’s first golfing monarch.
Back in these early days of the sport, three types of ball were traditionally used:
The ball that started the modern golf ball revolution was the Haskel, launched in 1898.
The Haskel design had a core (either liquid or solid) wrapped in strands of rubbers and then coated in hard sap.
One interesting biodegradable golf ball development I have my eye on is the lobster shell research from the University of Maine’s Office of Research Development.
There’ve been no updates for a few years, so it appears to have hit a snag.
However, if they ever perfect environmentally friendly golf balls made from lobster shells otherwise destined for landfill, I’ll update this article.
Steer clear of golf balls made from virgin plastics and heavy metal materials. These take hundreds of years to decompose and just add to the planet's existing plastic pollution problem from plastic bags and bottles.
Look out for a biodegradable ball made from eco-friendly materials such as corn starch and polyvinyl alcohol (a fully biodegradable plastic alternative).
Cards on the table time. Your eco-friendly golf ball options are limited if you're looking for ultimate performance.
In my experience, biodegradable balls reduce your distance by around 30%, and eco-friendly balls reduce your distance by around 15%.
Dixon Earth is your best option if performance is important.
Look for ethical manufacturers that use eco-friendly materials and treat their workings with respect.
Eco-friendly certifications can help put your mind at ease that you’re buying the best biodegradable golf balls from an ethical manufacturer.
You can also rest assured that I’ll only ever recommend products and services from ethical manufacturers, suppliers, brands, etc.
No. However, The Plastic Pick-Up movement (started by Alex and her dad in 2016) has definitely sped up the development of eco-friendly golf balls.
Golf in the U.S. is booming. Forbes reports that almost 25 million Americans play the game.
That adds to a lot of golf balls being used (AND LOST!) each year. Around 300 million, according to CNN!
It can take up to 1,000 years for a standard golf ball to decompose, so we should all be looking to reduce the environmental impact of our game by switching to eco-friendly balls.
Where do you buy your eco-friendly balls for playing golf close to water? Have I missed your favorite brand? Drop me a line and let me know.