The Metaphysics of Ball Retrievers

retriever

There is a point of no return in a golfer’s life, and an older friend passed it. I knew he had, because I saw the evidence in his bag. It was right between his three-wood and his umbrella.

It was a ball retriever.

My friend used to play pretty well. He never won the club championship, but in his prime he was one of the guys a champion had to beat. In a nassau, you wanted him for a partner. In a scramble, you wanted him on your team. He would go for the green in two on a par-five, and he would sink a putt that mattered. He was, locally, a player.

Then his game began to turn. His draw faded. His fade sliced. He stopped signing up for tournaments. The putts that he gave (and therefore showed that he hoped to be given) crept into the leather, and then beyond the leather. Gradually, his focus as a golfer shifted from the hole to the pond.

Golfers who carry ball retrievers are gatherers, not hunters. They’ve given up the chase. They’ve climbed as far up the hill as they can climb, and now the paths lead only down. They’ve stopped tinkering with their grip. They don’t practice in the sand. Their dreams are no longer of conquest, but only of salvage.

Golfers who carry ball retrievers don’t walk down the center of the fairway anymore. They go the long way, through the tall grass, because that’s where the lost drives hide. They stir the weeds with nine-irons as they pass. When they step on something round, they freeze. Instead of searching the treetops for a change in the wind, the way they used to, they let their eyes drift lower: there are balls in the woods. If no one is pressing them from behind, they leave their bag and walk along the creek. By the end of the morning, their pockets are bulging. They will never buy another sleeve.

I used to know a man who still played a little but was just as happy not to. On Friday afternoons, I would see him in the marsh to the right of the first fairway. There’s a shallow, silt-choked pond back there. He wore rubber boots that came up to his knees. Most of the balls he found were dark and heavy, but he didn’t throw many back.

His hoard of balls, which he kept in the trunk of his car, was sure to outlast him. But he wasn’t thinking about that. Suddenly, he glimpsed something pale in a spot too deep for wading. He extended his ball retriever and threaded it through the cattails. He braced his boots in the muck and reached as far as he dared into the darkness at the bottom of the pond.

9 thoughts on “The Metaphysics of Ball Retrievers

  1. I’m retired on a fixed income. At $48.00 a dozen plus tax finding a few Pro v1s or another premium ball during a round helps. As long as it doesn’t hold anyone up, why not? BTW my retriever is the short kind that fits into the long pouch of my bag, I play to a 6 handicap, and I do check the treetops to see what the wind is doing..

  2. When I was first married, over twenty years ago, my wife bought me a ball retriever for Christmas. When she discovered it wasn’t in my bag, she inquired where it was. My response: “Are you trying to embarrass me?”

  3. Aside from signaling a decline in the quality of one’s game, a ball retriever adds weight to a golf bag and tells the world you are leaking testosterone at an alarming rate. I will purchase a ball retriever the day after I start wearing socks with sandals.

  4. Bob is the only one on this thread making sense. This article is elitist drivel. Having grown up in Florida as a child of blue collar parents who had to pay for all of his golf himself, I learned early that a ball retriever was an important accessory. I recently played with a member of my club who pooh-poohed my ball retriever to the point of ridicule……until I retrieved HIS ball from a near miss in a watery grave. On the next tee he asked for HIS ball back. I allowed that, in light of his comments earlier in the round, I assumed he would be too embarrassed to have that ball back in his bag…..then gave it back. I wonder how many of the snobs on this thread would bend over and pick up 3 or 4 bucks if they were lying on the ground, say, 3 or 4 steps off the fairway or the edge of the green. Give me a break.

    Mr. OWen, I expect better of your writing.

  5. Ball Retrieving is part of golf, NO ONE gives up a ball they cannot find without a little struggle. I’ve been playing golf for over 50 years and have used a ball retriever for many a reason, but I don’t always carry it. As a kid, I needed balls. When I was older I kept some and gave some away. When I belonged to more than one club I gave the Pro V’s and such to the local muni guys, leaving them in a box in the locker room. One thing I have always done is cull the logo balls; as a voting rater for courses with free reign all over the world, I don’t ride a cart and rush through to play 36 – 54 a day, I still collect logo balls. I never get impatient behind slow clueless golfers, I fish a little, heck after 50 years, I know where to look (which is key), little time wasting. In Scotland at No Berwick WL and Carnoustie they HAVE retrievers for you at the burns. That’s endorsement enough for me. No disparagement of the ball retriever, please. I have played with a billionaire rooting in the bush for his ball. The Scots and a billionaire, ’nuff said.

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