Updated April 30, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

The 10 Best Ball Retrievers

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Good golf balls are very expensive, especially if yours are prone to landing in the water hazards and thick rough on many courses. With one of these handy retrievers, you can minimize your losses as you play. They'll pick up balls easily from lakes, under bushes, and in mud, and some can even save you from having to bend over at the end of each hole. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best ball retriever on Amazon.

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The Confusing History Of Golf

As far back as 100 B.C.E., there was a Roman game known as paganica, in which players would hit stuffed leather balls with bent sticks.

The true origins of golf have been debated for years, with no clear answer in site. Golf-like games have been played in a number of different cultures over the years. As far back as 100 B.C.E., there was a Roman game known as paganica, in which players would hit stuffed leather balls with bent sticks. Some historians site this as the true origin of golf, but others point to Chuiwan, a game from Song Dynasty China in which players also hit a ball with a stick. Another early game that might have been a precursor to golf is cambuca, an English stick-and-ball game from the 12th century.

Because references to golf-like games have been found in various cultures through the years, it is difficult for historians to say with confidence where it started. Until recently, it was often accepted that Scotland held the origins of what evolved into modern day golf, but new evidence now supports the theory that it was first played in the Netherlands, before migrating into Scotland. The earliest picture of people playing golf was found in a book written early in the 15th century in France. It was owned by the duchess of Burgundy and predates any reference to golf in Scotland.

Whatever the true origins of golf may be, it is known that it was extremely popular in Scotland and had to be outlawed by the Scottish parliament in 1457, as it was interfering with the military's archery training. In 1500, King James IV lifted the ban on golf because he was a fan of the sport and often liked to play it himself.

In the 17th century, golf became a popular pastime in England, and the first British Open was held in 1860. Around this same time, golf's popularity was spreading throughout the western world. North America's first permanent golf club, Canada’s Royal Montreal Club, was established in Montreal in 1873. The United States quickly followed suit with a permanent 18-hole golf course of their own, built at Wheaton, Illinois' Chicago Golf Club in 1893.

The Golf Ball Retriever

Golf ball retrievers are used to retrieve golf balls that might otherwise have been out of reach, in water hazards or deep rough, for example. They have a telescopic rod, with some extending 20 feet or more, and some kind of head on the top that is capable of picking up balls. Most pick up balls by using a simple scooping action, but some models are designed to be pressed down on top of a ball. These models often have some way to secure the ball in the head so it doesn't fall out when the retriever is lifted up. Golf ball retrievers are invaluable if one often plays on courses with deep water hazards.

Golf ball retrievers are invaluable if one often plays on courses with deep water hazards.

The golf ball retriever was first patented in 1964 by Harvey G Wysong. Before he created the ball retriever, it was common for players to abandon balls hit into water hazards. Golf courses would either hire divers or drain the water hazards periodically to retrieve the balls, which they would later sell back to players as used balls.

In 1976, Anthony F. Piazza patented a vacuum-based golf ball retriever. It combined a tapered receptacle with a vacuum pump that could be pressurized to suck up golf balls into the receptacle. A lever was incorporated to release the vacuum pressure when it was time to drop the ball.

Piazza thought this would make retrieving balls easier, and allow for players to retrieve balls from putting green cups without having to bend over. While this style of retriever did enjoy some measure of success, they are currently difficult to find with players often choosing to use the simpler scoop style retrievers.

Picking The Right Ball Retriever

When choosing a golf ball retriever, players must often make a compromise between length and portability. On one hand, it makes sense to purchase the longest ball retriever available, but this can make them difficult to transport in a golf bag. Before purchasing a retriever, players should measure their planned storage place to ensure it will fit when fully retracted. This may be a side pocket on a golf bag or, if there is additional room, in a club slot.

Since they will regularly be exposed to water, one should look for one made out of stainless steel or aluminum, as these metals will not rust.

The build material should also be taken into account when purchasing a ball retriever. Since they will regularly be exposed to water, one should look for one made out of stainless steel or aluminum, as these metals will not rust. If picking a stainless steel model, double check the weight. Overly heavy ball retrievers will be unwieldy and difficult to use when fully extended.

If you are worried about the ball falling out after being retrieved, look for a model that has some kind of locking mechanism to keep the ball securely in place. If you like to scour the water hazards for balls other players have abandoned, consider a retriever with a head designed to pick up multiple balls. Some may have room to hold two or three balls at a time. This allows you to retrieve more balls with less effort.

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Brett Dvoretz
Last updated on April 30, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously at the keyboard or, perhaps, enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.

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