The six footer
The company I was contracting for had warned me that the lakes on this course were a little darker and deeper than most, since they had made the lakes from the sand dredging process for the construction of the surrounding retirement community. I arrive at the course a little apprehensive since I had never dove for balls in extremely deep lakes. I entered my first lake, it wasn’t so bad only fifteen foot deep or so. The water was very dark like I was warned. The lake was also full of many sharp and jagged rocks, so I had to move slowly. On a scale of one to ten the course was a nine in terms of nasty inhospitable water. But that’s ok since I had been in black obstacle full ponds many times before. I finished my first dive realizing that this wasn’t going to be such a challenging creepy day after all.
The second lake I arrive at is a par three shoot across, should be just full of balls due to the size of the water in between the tees and the flag, no matter which way they missed they would hit the water. I climbed into the lake, to my surprise the visibility was great! for a golf pond anyway. I could see a long relatively steep sloping edge full of boulders large rocks and debris scattered around. I figured wow this isn’t a bad lake at all good visibility etc.. I decided to first work the top edge clambering around the boulders, there were many balls, a great top edge to say the least. Within a ten minutes or so I had already filled a bag of eight hundred balls off of the top edge. So I figured if the top edge is this good the bottom edge must be incredible. As I crawled down the edge I noticed it looked very black the closer I got to where I thought the bottom edge was. The water was already around twenty foot deep by this point. Now this was creepy as I got closer and closer to the black area I realized it was black because the edge just dropped straight off in a vertical manner. I climbed out as far as I could go without falling down looking down trying to gauge just how deep this thing was! I dropped a golf ball and watched it fall…it just disappeared after a few seconds. Now this started to not be fun, I was looking into what looked like a bottomless pit from hell. I crawled all along the edge of the drop off trying to see if maybe it was just that spot, maybe there was some way to descend this thing without just taking a leap. No such luck it was a straight drop all around! I knew that if I didn’t go down this thing I would loose so much money because of the amount of balls that would be down there. So I decided to take the leap jumping off the edge, I mean how deep could this actually be its a golf pond! I pushed off hard from the edge so I wouldn’t hit the wall on the way down. First of all I could see then it got blacker, then pitch black. The water got colder and colder as I fell into the abyss, I fell for at least thirty seconds, it felt like hours! I crashed into the muddy bottom, sitting there motionless for a few seconds to catch myself. Time for a quick check, just as I thought there were thousands of golf balls all around me. Next step I needed to find the wall of this thing so I knew where the edge was and didn’t get lost in the middle. As deep as this hell pond was, i knew my air would go very quickly and an emergency inflate ascent would be very dangerous. I could get bent or embolise my lungs. This was not a fun place to be. Feeling all around me without moving anywhere I looked for the wall. It turns out I landed pretty close and it was a few feet off to my side. Good I decided to keep one hand touching the wall at all times so I didn’t loose it, also moving slowly was a good idea. As I went along i piled golf balls into my apron, it was filling very quickly. Then all of a sudden my head hit something above it. I stopped, feeling above me, I realized I was actually under an overhang! Great now I know I have who knows how many tons of loose rock hanging over my entire body. I felt my way out to the edge of the over hang it went out three feet or so, i was three feet into this thing. If it should come loose or collapse I would never get out. That was it for me! No amount of money was worth playing around in a pond as hazardous as this one. so I sat in one spot reached all around me until my apron was full. I had been down at the bottom for around fifteen minutes now, figured at this depth my air would be getting pretty lean. Now the next problem how do I get up to the top of this thing! Not only do I have all my gear on but a huge bag of nine hundred or so balls around my neck. I decided to climb it, hike my way back up. This wall was truly vertical, this was going to be tough! I stood up next to the wall grabbing at some rocks jutting out of the wall pulling myself up onto it, I made it up about ten feet then the rock I grabbed broke loose in my hand and I fell down backwards all the way to the bottom. Now I am getting a little worried. I start again but within a few minutes I fall back down. Sitting on the bottom I ponder the best way to get up this wall, should I inflate and just hope for the best? what should I do. I don’t have much time as my air is already getting lean. You know this when the air comes out of the second stage a little harder than before. After thinking for a minute or so I come up with something that should work. If I inflate my BCD so that I am just buoyant enough to rise slowly then I could use the wall as a way to keep my ascent slow enough so it wouldn’t be dangerous. I inflated to where I was slowly starting to rise, I grabbed the wall slowing myself. I kept changing grips along the wall keeping myself rising slowly. After about six minutes of this, looking up I could see the start of the middle edge. Relieved I climbed up onto the middle edge. Releasing the air from my BCD once I was safely on top so I wouldn’t rise any more. I climbed up the edge until I was in around fifteen feet of water. remembering my dive training, I stopped and just sat at this depth for around five minutes to decompress. This is called a safety stop, you do this to prevent getting the bends. By stopping in around fifteen foot of water you can gas off or allow the nitrogen build up in your body to dissipate. Since I had no idea how deep I was down, I figured this was the safest thing to do. As I crawled out of the lake I looked at my pressure gauge, sure enough I only had two hundred pounds of air left! which is only a few minutes of breathing time.
When I got back to the cart barn, I found out that the lake was around sixty foot deep. Most divers that worked that course usually skipped it. That was too close of a call for me! I learnt on that day, that no amount of golf balls is worth taking that risk! I will never dive a lake like that again!
The salt water course
I had never been in a salt water course, so when they told me all about it I was excited supposedly the water was clear, it was like an ocean dive. The course was directly connected to the ocean by large twelve by twelve feet pipes. So all the sea life would also be in there. Fun I thought collecting golf balls while watching all the neat stuff swim by. All the ponds on this course have nick names.
The Fish Bowl
The fish bowl, it was closest to the ocean and was supposedly just teeming with sea life. I climbed in it was great crystal clear, fish swimming all around me, sea grass off to my right containing little crabs, small conchs everything you would find in the ocean. Wow I thought this will be fun as I descended the edge there were balls everywhere, top edge, middle edge. Allot of the balls had barnacles growing on them, some of them were just one giant barnacle. Little creatures inside of the barnacles. Great I thought now my apron that usually holds around nine hundred balls would hold much less meaning I would have to empty my apron into rice bags many more times than usual. Also the sharp barnacles were cutting holes in my ball apron. The edge was very long dropping me down to around twenty five foot at the bottom. There were hundreds of balls along the bottom edge. Some fresh but many with barnacles and snails and coral attached to them. My hands were getting cut and stung as I did the side to side sweep, so I decided to do the see be version of collecting where you don’t feel in the mud but just grab the balls you see. This was clearly a course you had to use gloves in. I looked behind me, the water was now pitch black from the dust cloud I had created. A little ahead of me up higher on the bank a pair of horse shoe crabs were following each other, this was a neat site in a golf course pond! As I crawled along I noticed a sting ray a little bit to the left of me mostly covered in sand to camouflage itself, as I got closer it sped off leaving a huge dust cloud and me blind for a minute. It wasn’t a good feeling knowing so much hazardous marine life existed in these ponds I wanted to be able to see. within a few hundred feet I already had three bags of nine hundred balls sitting on the bank! This was a loaded lake. I came to a log submerged beneath the surface under it sat a five or six foot nurse shark which also bolted as I got closer. I continued on my adventure looking above me at giant bluish purplish jelly fish floating by in the current of the lake. The water flowed slowly in the direction of the tides. A grassy area came up ahead it was covered in giant jelly fish the size of bread saucers that had an underside that looked like the weeds. they sat upside down on the bottom. As your hands hit them they stung you and then swam off in giant contractions. This was great all the views of an ocean dive. If I had gloves this would be a very enjoyable dive. As I slowly moved along the bottom edge I had a weird feeling like something was watching me and darting off whenever I turned in its direction disappearing into my dust cloud. I stopped for a minute to look around and there he was a six foot barracuda, a few feet above me and off to my left. They are very curious fish and like to follow you around. He followed me for the rest of the dive occasionally darting through the bubbles my regulator produced.
As I am pulling up to the lake in my golf cart, several iguanas bolt into the water some jump off trees. They swim almost as good as fish. This is the end of a long lake affectionately known as the black hole as it is so deep and black. The part I am about to dive is a slice on the opposite end ,which should catch allot of balls. Getting into the water I wonder why it is called Sherwood forest. The water was clear like the fish bowl, on my left some bushes hung into the water under which dozens of snappers sat in hiding. A few feet down the edge the water got a little murkier, this is when I realized why it was called Sherwood forest. I was in about 20 foot of water there were hundreds of trees cut off around the middle. This used to be a small valley when they made the lake. Instead of removing the trees they just cut them off mid way. This was neat I was climbing through a forest but under the water. Until of course my dust cloud caught up to me, now I am climbing through a nightmare of an obstacle course. Crashing into tree trunks, getting snagged on branches climbing under half uprooted trees. After fifteen or so minutes of this a branch gets caught under my mask ripping it off my face as I move forward, breaking the mask strap. reaching around with my eyes tightly shut I find my mask and decide to leave Sherwood forest to Robin and his merry bunch.
Salt water crocodile
After tying my mask strap in a knot so i could continue diving I get to a par 3 shoot across known as the Croc Shot. This lake is deep with a steep edge, a little dark but clear. This lake is one of the furthest from the ocean, so the water is more brackish than salt. Not too much wild life exists here. As i climbed down to the bottom edge, sliding mostly as it was so steep I found channels of balls hundreds lined up one on top of each other. This was great by the time I made it to the bottom edge I already had a bag full. I climbed back up through my dust cloud picking up renegade loner golf balls along the way. I was right in front of the green mask on my forehead dumping my catch into a rice bag when a golf ball hit the water right next to me sending water flying so hard it actually felt like needles piecing into my face. I looked up to see more golfers teeing off. I quickly put my mask back on and got under the water so I did not get hit. Judging by how hard the drops of water hit me, that ball would have really hurt me if it hit me. After a few minutes I surface to see the golfers standing on the green close to me. Close one a chap in standard golf attire said, I just smiled and threw him back his ball which I picked up while I was lying under the water. I finished tying my rice sack, as I looked up I spotted an alligator under the tree branches not too far from me. But this alligator looked a little strange it wasn’t like your standard alligator. I couldn’t pick out what it was he was just different. Around seven foot in length sitting on the bank under the trees. Oh well I thought crawling back in finishing my dive with great success. As i climbed out of the lake a maintenance man said to me I cant believe you went diving with that thing. I just smiled and said we dive with them all the time, they don’t bother you. He said Crocodiles? That’s when my eyes widened. Crocodiles are extremely dangerous and allot more aggressive than alligators. Turns out this course is part of a natural preserve and one of the few places in Florida that actually contains crocodiles. I made a mental note not to dive in that lake again.
This was another lake in the back of the course, mostly brackish water deep and dark like the Croc Shot. I did a quick scan just to make sure I wouldn’t be sharing water with man eating crocodiles. After climbing in I could not believe the amount of sea life in this lake schools of snappers whipping by, crabs every where, what a fishing spot I thought. Climbing down the edge I felt something huge whoosh by. What the hell was that?? Looking up I saw at least twenty huge four to six foot long shiny fish swimming by. Wow I have to check this out, after climbing up to the middle edge I realized they were all giant Tarpon which grow to as large as six hundred pounds. So many of them swimming slowly not even remotely bothered by my presence. They let me get really close I just sat there for awhile watching these beautiful fish swim by. Thinking to myself :- stuff the golf balls where’s my fishing rod?!?
Jelly fish lane
I found a shoot over nestled in some mangrove swamp. The water was very shallow waist deep at best. Sea grass covered the bottom, there were hundreds of large saucer shaped jelly fish every single inch of this lake. It was connected to the ocean by a short eight foot pipe. So this was truly like an ocean dive. I climbed in a little freaked out by the thousands of jelly fish everywhere, I knew I was going to get stung to hell. See bees only I thought. There were golf balls every where I looked. An extremely strong current was moving by the pipe connected to the ocean. The tide was going out half an hour or so till low tide. The water was shallow so as I propelled my self along with my tank sticking out of the water mashing through hundreds of jelly fish stinging my hands and face I started to contemplate whether I liked this job any more. The balls were under the jelly fish on top of the jelly fish just surrounded by these big ugly stinging creatures. work was slow its hard to move with your tank sticking out of the water. As the tide got lower and lower I could no longer crawl along the bottom it was too shallow. I took off my gear leaving it on the bank and walked along the swamp picking up golf balls. The ball apron in my right hand being dragged behind me. The whole time I had to keep a clean eye out for golfers shooting across. I felt like I was on a firing range constantly dodging balls. I learnt that high tide is the time to work this lake!
On this I day discovered that while a salt water course tends to be allot more hazardous to dive in, but on the same token it tends to be a very interesting to dive. Many sights to see and all in all it was a fun day.
East Coast Golf Ball Corp is currently seeking experienced black water divers for subcontract golf ball diving. If you are interested visit East Coast Golf Ball Corp http://www.ilovetogolf.com
for contact information.