The art and science of finding lost golf balls
-confessions of a ball hawk

The golf ball hawk-Any golfer or caddie who has developed a proven method for finding "lost" golf balls.

There are three basic types of golf ball hawk:            

There is the casual golf ball hawk. This is the most common golf ball hawk, the player that walks down the sides of the fairways looking for errant balls that have been abandoned in the long rough, or on the edge of the woods. He doesn’t really put much into it, but does take the circuitous route to his ball to see what he can find. The casual ball hawk may carry a single golf ball retriever and take a glance at the various ponds and water hazards as he walks by, going after the any easy pickings he can see. The casual ball hawk usually doesn’t even take the time to lift a branch or look under a shrub, but basically takes the easy to find golf balls and goes along his way. The casual ball hawk is usually a good person to play with never holding up play with his searches and a great help in assisting others searching for their errant shots. The casual hawk also tends to only keep the premium golf balls that he plays and either giving his other bounty to his playing partners or donating any economy golf balls to the driving range.

Typical hunting grounds of the casual golf ball hawk.


Then there is the piggy hawk. He’ll have two or three different golf ball retrievers, including things that look like dredging equipment for skimming wide paths through the muddier water hazards where a golf ball or two maybe hiding. You’ll also notice a piggy ball hawks golf bag, it has plenty of room for found golf balls. The piggy golf ball hawk stops at every puddle along the way, makes a pass or two with his dredging equipment. Also if you’re looking for your ball in the rough or woods, don’t really expect him to find it, at least when you’re there. He’ll come back later at another time and pick it up. The piggy ball hawk is the kind that looks under every bush and whenever there is a slight delay in play, starts scrambling into the woods looking under every branch scouring the area constantly until play has resumed. The piggy hawk also tends to keep all the balls he finds be they premium golf balls or economy golf balls. 

Only the good Lord knows what he intends to do with all those golf balls, pawing through his dubious collection reveals not only the latest and greatest golf balls, but golf balls approaching vintage status as well.



Typical hunting grounds of the piggy hawk, a small green side pond 
with tall and thick cat of nine tails, surrounded with ankle deep rough.


Lastly there is the master golf ball hawk. While many fall prey to the "piggy hawk", everyone falls prey to the master ball hawk. The master ball hawk takes a scientific approach to his craft by studying your game, especially your errant shots.

A photo a a master golf ball finder setting up shop to sell his stock.
A professional ball hawk setting up shop 
on a nice lush island course. 
Note the location he has chosen, the tee that immediately follows a water protected par 3 green. A spot I'm sure where some players thoughts turn to "Do I have enough ammo to finish my round ?

The master hawk has a rich and long history that goes back to the feathery golf ball. The feathery golf ball was so expensive, that people would actually go out onto the golf course and look for golf balls to resell. 

A feathery golf ball by today’s standards would probably cost about $25.00, so you can imagine that this would be a highly profitable activity. 

In fact ball hawking was so lucrative that often times caddies would actually steal the balls that were "lost" in the rough and them resell them to the players. 

There were even stories of a caddy at St. Andrews’ that had a trapdoor built into the bottom of his boot so that when he came across an errant shot that was hit into the rough, he would simply step on the ball with his trapdoor boot, scoop the ball into his hollow heal boot, 2-3 days later resell that ball to the player for a nice little profit! 

A number of today's the master ball hawk usually doesn’t resell his golf balls. In some cases they may resell their findings to the local pro for 50 cents, 75 cents apiece, depending on the quality and whether they are economy,  premium or logo golf balls. Most master ball hawks today do it strictly to torment the other players in the club. The master ball hawk of today also knows the special markings that individuals put on their golf balls for identification purposes and this is how he is able to torment the player so easily as he returns them with a grin saying "I think I’ve found something that belongs to you"! The other thing the master ball hawk of today likes to do is spread nasty rumors of "...these golf balls belong to John Smith. You couldn’t possibly believe where I found them. I hope he counted all his penalty strokes".

Here are a few secrets and tricks of the master hawk you may find interesting.

  • He knows when you’ve been on the golf course, and where to go to look for your lost golf balls. He has made a study of your game and knows your tendencies so when he asks "So how did you play ? Did you have any troubles ?" Be assured this is not idle chit-chat or concern in anyway about your game, he wants to know did you lose any balls and if so where !
  • A little known secret of the master ball hawk is if you're walking along the woods or the rough, and you find a golf ball in a spot where you don’t think anyone could ever hit a ball, look in a circle 9 meters around that ball, and the odds are you’re going to find another ball. 
  • The master ball hawk knows that a good supply of inexpensive golf balls can be found are found usually 170 to 180 yards off the tee, on the right hand side, either in the woods or the deep rough. 

  • You may find a few premium golf balls also along the right hand side, but they’ll be more like 220 or more yards out in the right rough. You also may find a good supply of premium golf balls if you look at wooded areas and rough areas around the greens, especially long and left. 

This new bunker is going to annoy the master ball hawk as it will prevent balls 
from entering the deep rough and woods. This location is about 220 yards 
off the first tee and prime hunting ground for once hit premium golf balls.


  • The master hawk knows that the average golfer has a new ball for 18 to 20 full swing strokes. This gives him a keen edge on where to start his focused searches.
  • After charity type golf tournaments a good place to look for balls, is the tall grass just in front of all the tees, that have to be carried by the tee shots, these can be prime early morning picking grounds for the master ball hawk, especially if the golf tournament was a scramble. 
  • The master ball hawk never carries a ball retriever in his golf bag. You can bet he has one though, along with the  other "special tools" in his golf ball finding arsenal, for his casual early morning strolls around the golf course.

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