How many golf balls can I find?
Let's be frank. Ball hawking is not going to turn you into the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. It's not a multi-million dollar operation for anyone but the big recycling companies who are able to retrieve and sell millions of balls per year. But ball hawking is a good source of hobby or second income. $400 a month is within the reach of any serious ball hawk.
Assume you sell to a ball recycling business. They will pay you 25 cents for all Titleist Pro V1 balls. You'll get 10 cents for every other ball, whether it's Titleist, Calloway, Pinnacle, Noodle, Nike, Dunlop, Precept, Wilson, or Slazenger.
The Titleist Pro V1 is your money ball. All other balls are your bread and butter, the bulk of your income.
The Pro V1 will make up 10 to 20% of your annual haul if you're lucky.
How many lost balls?
If you hawk on a busy 18-hole public course with plenty of rough and out-of-bounds areas, you should be able to find 50 balls for every hour of hawking.
If you're an experienced ball hawk, you should be able to sweep an 18-hole course in two hours. That doesn't mean you cover every nook and cranny, but you will have checked most of the spots where balls are usually lost.
Two hours of serious hawking should give you 100 to 200 balls, depending how busy the course is.
In terms of income from a ball recycling company, 100 balls makes you $10 to $13, depending on how many Titleist Pro V1 you find.
It is possible to repeat that income day after day, week after week for as long as the course is open. $70 a week is by no means an impossible goal. $50 a week is very easy. $100 a week is possible if you're very good and the course is busy.
An income of $100 a week will probably require at least 14 hours a week. In other words, it's at or below minimum wage. But it's tax-free money and you're the boss.
These figures can change dramatically for a number of reasons. You'll get your basic income from your daily sweep of the course. This involves moving quickly, checking the obvious places on the edges of fairways, the fringes of greens, long grass, etc.
But every course has hot spots where lots of balls are hit and never retrieved by golfers. These are usually in dense underbrush where you don't want to venture everyday.
Some hot spots are small patches of shrubbery that will give you 10 to 20 balls everytime you look. Other hot spots are strips of woodland that can produce 50 to 100 balls once a week.
Some hot spots are so unpleasant owing to the dense, thorned vegetation that you only want to check there once or twice a month, where they'll produce 200 or more balls in a short time.
I don't like wading in water hazards. I wait until they have dried out, then I walk out to the balls, often retrieving up to 500 in a session. The surface of the pond bottom can be anything from firm to soft. If I think I am going to sink over my ankles, I wait till the ground is firmer.
Water hazards can be unpleasant. The silt at the bottom usually stinks. Who knows how many heavy metals are trapped in the mud of big city golf courses.
That's why I retrieve from water hazards when they've dried out. I don't bother swimming or diving in hazards. Plenty of ball hawkers do, and they find thousands of balls in the biggest ponds.
You can try to make more money by selling directly to golfers at local courses. Then you'll make much more than 25 cents for a Pro V1 and 10 cents for other balls. This will mean you can sell fewer balls to get the same money a retrieval company pays you.
But it's difficult to shift thousands of used golf balls on your own. The time you spend selling eats into your hawking time.
Don't assume you will be a popular presence selling at golf clubs. If they feel you are eating into their profits from golf ball sales, you'll be asked to move.
If you advertise the fact that sell used golf balls from your home (e.g. by placing flyers on the windshields of golfer's cars), be prepared to answer phone calls from club officials telling you to stop doing it. Nor do you want a visit from law enforcement asking to see your collection of
illegally retrieved golf balls. Yes, that has happened!
Another option is to sell balls on E-Bay or via a personal website. You'll be up against the big boys with their popular sites and millions of golf balls, but if you think you can sell enough to make it worthwhile, give it a try.
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