5 ways to stop losing golf balls (other than by just playing better!)

ball in the rough

It's out there somewhere!

getty images

It has been estimated that the average golfer loses three to four balls a round, accounting for more than 400 million lost balls globally each year.

We can do better, people!

One way to minimize those mini-heartaches is to keep more drives and approaches in the short grass.

But since bad shots are inevitable, here are 5 other ways to prevent balls from going MIA, regardless of your handicap.

1. Play the right tees

Architects want their courses to present a challenge. They also want them to be fair. They put much thought into the positioning of tees in relation to ponds, creeks and other ball-swallowing hazards. We owe it to them — but even more to ourselves — to put a bit of thought into playing the boxes that suit our games.

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2. Find a reference point

Pick a target in the distance, golf instructors often say. The same applies when you’re following the flight of an errant shot. Pick a feature in the landscape — a tree, a shrub, a path, a shack — in the area where the shot was headed, and keep it locked in view as you head off on your search. When you leave the tee, it’s easy to lose perspective. You’ll want to have a landmark as a reference point.

3. Use a highly visible ball

You know those construction sites you speed past on the way to the course? There’s a reason they’re a bracketed with bright orange cones and populated by workers in neon-yellow safety vests. Those colors are two of the easiest for the human eye to see. How this dynamic plays out against the verdant backdrop of a course can vary in accordance with a range of factors, including the shape and distance of the shot, the shade of the turf, the brightness of the day and the vision of the golfer.

But more often than not, you’ve got a better crack at tracking your ball if it’s the color of the Hulk or a radioactive tangerine. And while we can’t back this up with scientific data, anecdotal evidence suggests that there’s something freeing about knocking around a cartoonishly colored ball.

Call it the Hacker’s Paradox: The ball you take less seriously is the object you are less likely to lose.

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4. Don’t look away in disgust

We understand. A natural reaction to a slice or smother-hook is to turn away in fury or disappointment. But do yourself a favor and resist the urge to avert your eyes. As hard as it is to find an errant shot, it’s even tougher if you don’t follow it to the bitter end.

5. Be a good scout

When you play golf with others, you sign a social contract. Among the conduct it requires is maintaining a good pace, repairing pitch marks and, yes, keeping watch on your partners’ shots, instead of, say, fiddling with your phone or rummaging through your bag when they are hitting. It doesn’t take a lot. And think of it this way: The more time you spend watching shots take off, the less time you’ll probably have to spend trawling for them in the rough.

Josh Sens

Golf.com Contributor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.