Former police officer John Colenutt has built a successful business by diving for lost golf balls. Colenutt started selling second-hand golf balls on eBay in the 1990s when working at a driving range. After leaving the Royal Metropolitan Police in 2015, he reignited his interest in diving for golf balls, training in Spain before starting GolfBalls4U. The business collects second-hand golf balls, cleaning and selling them at a discounted price across more than 70 golf courses in England and Wales. The team can retrieve up to 12,000 balls on especially busy days.
Despite the upsides, such as the collection of golf clubs discarded after bad shots, the job isn’t without challenges. Workers have to operate by feel, as visibility can be impaired, they have to contend with snakes and fish, and often have to smash through ice. Heavy kit can make working conditions uncomfortable, while some ponds can go several decades without being cleared properly. However, while many collected balls can be reused, those which cannot are recycled to have the least possible environmental impact.
In a recent interview, Colenutt acknowledged that “when I’m working, I’ll have golfers come up to me and say ‘oh you drew the short straw’ or ‘that’s a terrible job’, but I’ve had far worse jobs”. GolfBalls4U’s services are likely to be in demand. More consumers are turning to second-hand golf balls and clubs due to high first-hand prices, with Dick’s sporting goods revealing US sales of recycled golf balls in 2020 were double those of 2019. Reselling used balls can also be profitably done, as long as consumers have the guarantee they are in good shape.