Pebble Beach aims to keep harmful golf balls out of ocean

Lost golf balls are pictured on the floor of the Pacific Ocean in Stillwater Cove near Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California, U.S. in this undated handout photo. Alex Weber/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Pebble Beach Golf Links, which hosts the U.S. Open this week, hopes the world’s best golfers will keep their balls on the fairways and out of the sensitive coastal waters, which have been overwhelmed by decades of golf ball pollution.

The Pebble Beach Company has made reducing the number of balls that reach the ocean a priority, posting signs letting players of all levels know not to hit into the water and sending divers to help collect any errant balls.

The extent of the environmental problem was first identified three years ago by teenager Alex Weber after she came across something she had never seen before while diving in California — a white sea floor.

“It was just blanketed in this mess of golf balls,” she told Reuters this week. “Seeing the vast scale of pollution from such an identifiable source made me wonder why no one was doing anything about it.”

So Weber took matters into her own hands, first by picking up the balls and then connecting with a researcher at Stanford University who suggested they collaborate on a scientific research paper.

They went on to publish the first paper about golf ball marine pollution, which got the attention of the National Marine Sanctuary and officials at the course itself.

In February the Pebble Beach Company agreed to conduct around 200 underwater clean ups every year for five years or until a “dramatic shift” is seen in the underwater environment.

“We had no idea what it would become when this started,” said Weber, 19, who recently completed her second year at California’s Cabrillo College, where she studies environmental science.

“It’s all coming together.”

More Stories