If there’s anything a golf ball, just out of the shiny new factory package, longs and lusts for, it’s to be sitting on the highly manicured and tickly surface of a golf green, waiting for a gentle nudge or bump, to send it skimming over the roller-coaster surface toward the hole, and jump in, just as the caddy removes the flagpole, and then scream out “nickel-nockel-nockel,” nearly a thousand years old, the traditional war cry of all golf balls, and the sound each golfer hopes to hear from the first early moment of knowing that today is golf day and the first tee is waiting just for you.

We know this because we live side-by-side with a golf course, our driveway running right beside the rough and fairway from the 15th tee box to the 15th green, our house peeking up from the riverbank just behind the 15th green and the tee box for the 16th hole.

We find them all the time, refugee golf balls that couldn’t bear one more blow, one more beating from that vicious club head at the end of that long, steel shaft, so hurry up, while they’re not looking, or arguing about how to take the sting out of the latest real estate valuation, and hide in the tall grass of the rough, under an old leaf from last year’s final hurricane.

No more beatings! Freedom, at last!

For those who golf, or those who live near a golf course, “refugee” golf balls are ubiquitous. Dan King photo

It’s not just being hit with the clubs all the time, or being bought and sold, but they write on you with permanent marker, and make comments like, “Scruffy ball, can’t stay on the fairway or roll true on the green.” I mean who’s playing golf here? Is it the ball, the clubs, the caddy or the golfer? It’s no wonder they eventually creep off into the tall grass and hope to be found no more.

But there’s great news for the refugee golf balls. My wife, the fantastic gardener, whose greatest pleasure is digging holes in the ground and planting flowers, bushes, cucumbers, strawberries, tomatoes and trees, finds the refugee golf balls hiding in her garden all the time. And she saves them.


She waits until the current twosome or foursome has just holed out and left our green for the next tee box, and then, with a magnificent hand mashie, flips the refugee ball onto the green and waits to see how the next group of golfers are going to deal with the discovery of an extra golf ball waiting for them right alongside their own ball.

How humane! It puts the refugee golf balls right back into the game they were made for, and there’s a good feeling to that. And more’s the fun watching to see how quickly the orphan is adopted by the first one to find it. Some folks can’t bring themselves to take another’s lost ball, while others can’t wait to slip it into their pocket or golf bag.

As we’ve discovered before, with people there’s takers and there’s givers, and that’s how it should be. Altogether in life and in golf, it’s teamwork.

Orrin Frink is a Kennebunkport resident. He can be reached at [email protected]

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