It never ceases to amaze me the myriad ways a golf ball can hide from view.
In the century that has passed since they were first manufactured for the mass market, no one has come up with a solution to this frustrating fact.
Put a yellow ball on the tee and watch it find the pale patch of grass the local wildlife like to mark. Put a pink ball down and it lands in an azalea bush.
A few years ago, one of the manufacturers came up with one that looked like a soccer ball, dark patches dotting the otherwise white surface.
I found one of these at the humble golf course I call home. How could anyone lose something so striking, I pondered.
It took me two holes to lose it again.
As I write this, the autumn leaves are falling down. My wife thinks they look pretty. I think they will fall on top of my golf ball.
And it’s not just scattered foliage that causes trouble; at this time of year the low angle of the sun sets up a sheen to camouflage a ball that may, through some stroke of good fortune, have landed upon the fairway. There is nothing more frustrating than walking past a ball hiding in plain sight.
There’s an old golfing joke that goes like this: Chap one has bad eyesight. His mate has 20-20 vision, but has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Chap one hires his mate to watch his ball, hits off the 1st tee and says,
‘Did you see it?’
Chap two says, ‘Yes.’
‘Where is it?’
‘I can’t remember.’
There’s an equally venerable gag about the novice golfer walking into the pro shop to buy two dozen balls.
‘You don’t need two dozen,’ says the pro. ‘You only need this one.’
‘I’ve just started playing,’ says the novice. ‘I’m sure to lose a few.’
‘Not this one, sir. This golf ball is remarkable. If you hit it into long grass a spring comes out and it bounces up and down so you can see it. If you hit it into a tree, it shoots out a tiny grappling iron and abseils down on a strand of cotton. If you hit it into water, airbags come out and it rows itself to shore. Quite literally, sir, you cannot lose this ball.’
‘Well that’s remarkable,’ says the novice. ‘Where did you get it?’
‘I found it.’
– This column first appeared in the July 2023 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.