Whether you’ve got a knack for stumbling across lost golf balls, or you’re looking to become a dedicated golf ball hunter, you can easily make a nice bit of extra cash by selling used golf balls. In this guide, we’ll cover the four steps of peddling used golf balls: finding them, cleaning them, sorting them, and selling them.
How to Find Golf Balls
A good time to find used golf balls is when you are looking for your own ball in the roughs, weeds, trees, trenches, and bushes. I’ve often found that when I go looking for my own ball off the sides of the fairway, I can easily end up with an extra two or three balls. Another player’s loss is your gain.
The same goes for water hazards. It’s amazing how many balls you can find right at the edge of a lake or pond. In most cases, you can simply use your golf club to retrieve them from the water. You could also use a golf ball retriever, which is basically an extendable pole with a scoop at the end of it.
However, the lion’s share of used golf balls is most likely going to be found away from the edges of the water, towards the center. In order to go looking there, you’ll first need to seek permission from the golf course.
While most major courses will likely have pre-existing deals with recovery divers, you may find success with smaller clubs. If they agree to let you go searching for golf balls, you’ll probably need to promise them a cut of your revenue. This may be open to negotiation, but expect to pay them somewhere in the region of 25%. Don’t shortchange them – they’ll ban you from collecting balls, and they may ban you from playing there altogether.
So, now that you’ve got permission to go looking for balls after hours, how do you go about your hunt?
Diving for Golf Balls
One sure-fire way of collecting bag-loads of balls is to dive for them. The idea is to literally swim around the bottom of the lake, pick up the balls, and toss them into a mesh bag as you go.
However, if you’re not already qualified, and you don’t already have all of the equipment, this is going to incur a hefty expense. Securing a diving qualification takes time, and the courses cost roughly $300-$500. Then, once you’ve purchased the gear, you could have easily spent upwards of $1,000.
If that’s not an issue, then go ahead and dive right in. If scuba isn’t your thing, however, then there is a cheaper, more accessible alternative.
Wading in the Water
It might not be quite as effective as diving, but wading in the water can still net you a good haul of lost golf balls. Grab a pair of fishing pants, some tall and thick rubber boots, some rubber gloves, and a mesh bag, and wade your way into the water for some good old-fashioned golf ball retrieval.
Definitely cheaper than diving, though you may still have to fork out a few bucks for the equipment.
Wade with caution. There may be deep sections of the lake which you’ll have to carefully navigate.
Moving out of the waters, and into the roughs, you may find some success simply by running a rake through patches of long grass, gathering golf balls in the same way you’d gather leaves.
How to Clean Golf Balls
Since they’ve been plucked from the bottom of lakes and the deep rough, the golf balls you’ve found are probably going to be covered in mud, so you’ll want to clean them before you start selling them. Second-hand or not, no one wants to play with muddy balls, and peddling dirty balls won’t do your reputation as a seller any favors.
The easiest and most effective way to clean golf balls is to fill a bucket or sink with warm, soapy water (regular dish soap will work just fine), and soak your golf balls in the mixture for a few minutes. Then, using a soft towel or cloth, wipe them clean, removing as much mud as you can. If there are some more stubborn patches of mud, you could use an old toothbrush to scrub them off.
When you’re done, let them air dry. You could polish the balls to give them that extra shine, though this isn’t necessary.
Sorting Used Golf Balls and Assigning a Price
Now that they’re all clean, it’s time to sort the golf balls into categories and price them up. Chances are, you’ve collected a wide variety of balls; some may be in excellent condition, others may be a bit worn out. And some may be premium standard, while others are more budget or practice-orientated. Splitting your haul into appropriate categories will make the selling process a lot smoother.
GolfLink has suggested that you can split your golf balls into the three following categories:
- Grade A: These are balls of a well-known brand, such as Titleist and Srixon, that are in good condition. You could probably sell these at $1 a ball.
- Grade B: These are off-brand, more budget orientated balls, which could be sold at $0.50 each.
- Grade C: Either premium brand or budget brand balls that are damaged (i.e. scratches, marks, or discoloration). Most people will not choose to buy damaged balls, but you may be able to sell them at $0.25 apiece.
Once you’ve got them categorized, you’ll want to pile them up into decently sized batches. A good batch size to aim for would be 50 balls. However, you could also sell them in batches of 100, 200, or more.
How to Sell Used Golf Balls?
Finally, it’s time to sell the golf balls, and reap the rewards of all that hard work.
1. Selling Golf Balls Offline
If you’re looking to sell your retrieved balls offline, you could take them along to your local golf course or practice facility. The driving ranges may need restocking, in which case the owners will take the balls off your hands at anywhere between $0.05 and $0.15 apiece. If there are some decent balls in your batch, pro shops may be willing to buy them from you at a higher price, which they will then stock as ‘experienced balls’.
Alternatively, you could set up a stall at your local flea market, and see if there are any takers. The balls will need to be cleaned and well-categorised.
However, you’re sure to have a lot more success with the wide reach of the internet. With that in mind, here are some of the best places to sell golf balls online.
eBay is easy to use and grants you full control over the price at which you can sell. Theoretically, you could sell two dozen balls, two hundred balls, or two thousand balls. It’s eBay; anything goes. It has a huge audience, with hundreds of potential buyers on the hunt for second-hand balls visiting the site every day.
If you provide a few quality images and are transparent about the condition of the balls, you could well be in for a fast and smooth sale. You’ll then acquire some positive reviews and build up a reputation as a reliable seller. Keep in mind that you may have to charge for postage and packaging, especially if you are shipping long distances and/or overseas.
3. Used Golf Ball Marketplaces
These websites exclusively sell used golf balls, and they’re always looking to purchase the stashes of second-hand balls that you’ve managed to acquire.
Golf Balls Direct, for instance, is a used ball marketplace based in Florida. If you live nearby, you can drop your balls off at their facility, and they’ll pay you either in cash, an ACH deposit, or a check. If you don’t live in Florida, you can ship your balls to them, though they will only accept a minimum amount of 15,000 balls (they will pay for shipping). Golf Balls Direct pay anywhere between $0.02 and $0.65 per ball.
Lost Golf Balls is another one. They have 21 locations around the country, and if you live relatively close by, they’ll send someone to pick your balls up for you. They take stashes of 5,000 balls or more, and they can pay you on the spot.
The advantage of selling to a used ball marketplace is that you don’t have to worry about cleaning or sorting the balls – they do that themselves. Plus, they’ll accept just about any ball, regardless of condition.
The disadvantage is that you lose control over how much you sell each ball for. They pay based on the quality and condition of the ball, but you probably won’t get much more than $0.60 for even a premium ball in good condition, whereas on places like eBay, you could easily sell them at a dollar each, or more.
The selling of used golf balls can easily become a lucrative side hustle. If you go to the trouble of finding them, cleaning them, and sorting them, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a willing buyer.
All things considered, I’d say the best place to sell your used golf balls is on eBay. You can sell as many as you like, at whatever price you’d like, and you make trades regardless of where you are located. Selling to a used golf ball marketplace does have its advantages, but ultimately, you are probably going to get a lot more bang for your buck selling on places like eBay or Amazon.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.