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Interview with a Golf Ball Diver

Golf Balls, Local Golf Course, Scuba Gear

Jeff Givens dives for golf balls for a living. That’s right, all those golf balls that you knock into the water hazards at your local golf course have to be retrieved by somebody, and Jeff is one of the thousands of divers who make their living diving for golf balls. I had a chance to meet up with Jeff in suburban Phoenix and ask him some questions about life as a golf ball diver.

Question: So, what exactly is it that you do?

Answer: I recover golf balls from the water hazards on golf courses.

Q: And you make a living doing this?

A: Yes, I do. It’s a full-time job. There are a lot of golf balls out there in the water.

Q: How much can a golf ball diver make?

A: I think the industry average is about $30,000 a year.

Q: How does it work?

A: I free lance or what’s called a sub-contractor. There are golf ball recovery companies out there who contract with courses for the right to recover the golf balls. Usually, the club takes a percentage of the golf balls, something like 35%, and the recovery company sells the rest.

Q: How do you go about recovering golf balls?

A: Well, I’m a golf ball diver, so I dive for them. You need to be fully outfitted in scuba gear. After that, it’s pretty straight forward. You just gotta go down to the bottom, find the golf balls, and put them in your bag.

Q: But there’s more to it than that, isn’t there?

A: Yeah, cause you never know what’s down there. You can’t go down there with gloves on cause you won’t be able to handle the balls that way. So you gotta go in with bare hands which means that you’re making yourself vulnerable to what’s ever down there. Mostly, it’s glass. Broken beer bottles or whatever. Shells can be really sharp, too. I’ve been cut up by them more than a few times. It’s really easy to get your hands all cut up. So you’ve got to be careful.

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Q: What other dangers are there?

A: The biggest danger is getting trapped in the weeds. I’ve heard of two guys who actually died because of it. You’re diving all alone, so if you get trapped in the weeds, you’re in big trouble cause you’re gonna run out of air eventually. If you’re not careful it’s real easy to die in three feet of water.

Q: Aside from golf balls, what else do you find down there?

A: Most of the time, it’s golf clubs. Lots of fishing lines. And guns, believe it or not. I’ve found about five guns in my time diving.

Q: How long have you been diving for golf balls?

A: About eight years now.

Q: What did you do before?

A: I worked at a bar. I was a bartender. That’s how I got this gig. I’ve been diving for years, as a hobby, so I already had my divers certificate. And one of my regulars worked for one of these golf ball recovery contractors, and we got to talking about it, and he basically talked me into it. To working for him as a golf ball diver.

Q:Any regrets?

A: No. None at all. I love it. I just wish I could be on that show on Discovery, “Dirty Jobs.”