Did you know that the Midwest’s largest and most active golf ball recycling company is located in Joliet, IL? Jim Darin is the owner and president of Pre-Driven Golf Ball Company and will be selling his ‘sunken treasures’ directly to the public at two local upcoming consumer golf shows.
The name ‘Pre-Driven’ might lead one to believe that he is selling used cars rather than used golf balls, but there are many analogies between the buying and selling of cars and golf balls. Jim says “My customers are looking to buy ‘Cadillacs’ at ‘Chevy’ prices, and that’s exactly what I offer. I started my business upon the belief that a new golf ball is only new until just after its first hit, the way ‘new cars’ become ‘used cars’ just after they are driven out of the showroom”. And while Pre-Driven Golf Ball Company does not warranty their used balls for 60,000 miles, they do guarantee that they will beat any competitor’s price for used balls. Jim further stated “Because I am selling indoors at the golf shows, my customers cannot take the balls out for a test drive, but rest assured my grade ‘A’ balls go through a 26-point inspection just like at the car dealers”. Just as Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, and the foreign car producers offer basic transportation models, performance models, and pretty paint colors to lure customers, Jim sells plenty of Pinnacles and Top Flites to the weekend golfers, along with Titleist Pro-V1’s and Nike 20XI-s to his low-handicap customers; and, Jim’s selection includes the pastel crystal balls which are a favorite of the ladies.
In addition to the low price benefit, Pre-Driven Golf Ball customers get the benefit of great selection — two ways in fact. There is a greater selection of more brands and models of golf balls at Jim’s booths than there are at pro shops and big box golf stores; Jim sells current and ‘older’ models, they don’t. Furthermore, Jim’s golf ball selection is displayed in bulk, and not pre-packaged; customers can select individual balls from amongst hundreds of their desired model.
‘Where and how do you get these balls?’ and ‘How do you clean them?’ customers often ask. Among the rather small brotherhood of golf ball recyclers, specific answers to these questions are trade secrets. Jim says, “Loose lips sinks ships”. Some other recyclers reply that fishing for golf balls is akin to real fishing — ‘if I told you where my favorite, best fishing spot is, it would soon be overrun and not then be the best fishing spot’. But answers to these questions can involve low-tech and high-tech methods. For example, in ways similar to our spear-fishing caveman ancestors, nets or chicken-wire traps can be placed in the eddies of free flowing waterways (rivers and creeks) to catch errant golf balls. Or, in high-tech methods, scuba gear, sonar fish locators, and dragging winches may be employed when recycling in lakes and ponds. Low tech cleaning methods can be hand brushing with soap and water, leading to industrial washing machines loaded with hemp-backed carpeting strips for abrasives, on up to chemical washes using muriatic acid.
The retrieval of lost / sunken golf balls has inherent dangers. The murky waters not only capture and hide lost golf balls, but jagged rocks, broken glass, and countless varieties of sharp, rusted metal objects are also hidden down there. Live dangers also abound in the treasure filled golf ponds. Down south, alligators and water moccasins are the foremost threats, while up north snapping turtles and muskrats can cause plenty of biting injuries.
Darin’s company annually recovers more than 100 tons of used golf balls, by count that’s over 2 million, and sells at booths in 30 consumer golf shows, enabling the Pre-Driven Golf Ball Company to claim the title of ‘Midwest king of the lost and found’. Chicago golfers can catch Darin’s booths in early February at the Tinley Park Golf Expo, then two weeks later in Rosemont at The Chicago Show.
Recently Jim reaffirmed “I think that I have the greatest job in the world. I enjoy enabling golfers to save money on purchasing golf balls, and giving them the opportunity try a variety of balls. I get the chance to work at so many different courses around the Midwest, that the routine never gets boring. I get to explore the grounds of some of the finest courses in America. And, over the past 30 years I have met over ½ million people selling golf balls at consumer golf shows; I’ve truly achieved my American dream!”