After the first year of our efforts we discovered that in order for policy change to occur we needed to provide research and scientific literature to prove that there is an environmental impact associated with golf balls in the ocean. We soon realized that this topic had never before been studied in the science community, and decided to spearhead the issue. Under the mentorship of Matthew Savoca a postdoctoral researcher at Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, we constructed the first ever scientific knowledge of golf balls in the marine and aquatic environments. This research is intended to help develop and direct mitigation procedures for this region and other coastal and riverside golf courses.
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Identifying terrestrial sources of debris is essential to suppress the flow of plastic to the ocean. Here, we report a novel source of debris to the marine environment. From May 2016 to June 2018, we collected golf balls from coastal environments associated with five courses in Carmel, California. Our 75 collections recovered 39,602 balls from intertidal and nearshore environments adjacent to, or downriver from, the golf courses. Combining our collections with concurrent efforts of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Pebble Beach Corporation, we report the retrieval of 50,681 balls, totaling approximately 2.5 tons of debris. We also examined decomposition patterns in the collected balls, which illustrate that degradation and loss of microplastic from golf balls to the marine environment may be of concern. Our findings will help to develop and direct mitigation procedures for this region and others with coastal golf courses.