WHERE CAN that ball have gone? Golfing Sherlock LAWRENCE MONEY tries to solve The Infuriating Case of the Vanishing Golf Ball:
At a recent lunch at the Gables reception centre, Melbourne illusionist Ross Skiffington made a torn-up newspaper disappear. Then he somehow produced the original paper as it had been before he ripped it apart.
“I could tell you how I do it,” he told me, “but then I’d have to kill you.”
That’s why I didn’t ask him if he knew the answer to golf’s biggest mystery – where do golf balls go when they disappear?
Over the decades I’ve seen vanishings that defy explanation. A well-struck drive will sail down the middle of the fairway, seemingly landing in the centre, far from trees or rabbit-holes or other golfers who may hit it by mistake – but your ball is never seen again.
A superb wedge into the green will trickle over the back. By the time you get there it has disappeared without trace.
There is a formula applying to this process which makes it even more frustrating – the newer and more expensive the golf ball, the faster it will disappear into Nowhere Land.
Sometimes – as if to taunt you – a vanished ball will suddenly reappear. “Here it is,” cries a playing partner, pointing to a spot where you had walked only seconds earlier. The ball will be glowing bright in the sunshine, almost spot lit. How the hell could you have walked past and not seen it – but you did!
When I played a round in Ireland in the 1990s the same thing happened — but over there they blame the Leprechauns, the little people, so there is at least some explanation, however far-fetched.
Over the years, on golf courses all over the country, I have concluded that there must be some unseen tribe of Aussie little people who rejoice in making a golfer’s tortured life more painful. Hard enough to get that little pill to head in the direction you desire without those little runts tossing it through some space warp into another dimension.
I’m figuring there must be a mountain of lost balls in that fourth dimension but there is no way of retrieving them.
Proof positive came recently in the Australian Open when the bloke they call Sherbert (Lucas Herbert) hit a stray iron off the par-3 11th tee. The TV cameras showed precisely where it landed in a clump of tall grass. A huge crowd was witness and officials with flags marked the landing spot. But when Sherbert walked up, the ball had vanished.
All those people, a clear video record of where it landed, yet despite frantic hunting by one and all, the ball was never seen again. Poor Sherbet lost his fizz after that and fell away from the leading group.
If my Little People theory is right, some mischievous squirt is probably playing a round with Sherbert’s ball in golf’s magic land beyond the clouds right now.
Lawrence Money has twice been named Victoria's best newspaper columnist by the Melbourne Press Club. He wrote columns for 37 years on the Melbourne Herald, Sunday Age and daily Age -- and in Royalauto and Your Sport magazines -- before retiring in 2016 after a 50-year career in journalism.
He still treads the speaking circuit, does radio gigs, tweets on @lozzacash and chases a long-gone 13 golf handicap. He clings to the eternal hope that the Melbourne Demons will once again win a flag.