It’s always a tense moment — that moment when I strap my golf bag into the cart and reach into the ball pocket. I grab two golf balls – typically fire-engine red or glowing green. 

The guys I normally play with typically don’t say anything, but I can see the disparaging glances. “There’s Hembree again with the colored balls,” they’re thinking in their tiny brains. “Golf balls are supposed to white. It’s not right. It’s against the traditions of golf. Why does he do that?”

Why? Because I can.

Just because something has been white for decades doesn’t mean it has to stay white. T-shirts used to be all white (ask your grandpa). Tennis clothes? All white. Toothpaste? Yep, white. 

There are many things that used to be all white and no longer are. Some of them we don’t need to discuss in this forum, but check your history books.

Bright colors on the golf course don’t have to be limited to outrageously designed polo shirts and pants that look like a kaleidoscope exploded on them.

Colored balls carry numerous advantages:

  • They’re much easier to find in the rough, in the woods, at the edge of waterways.
  • Wild animals – that is, squirrels, coyotes and those of the reptile persuasion – are less likely to confuse them with eggs and are thus less likely to grab your down-the-middle drive from the fairway and tote it off for lunch.
  • If the course’s driving range is near a fairway, it’s much easier to locate your colored ball among the dozens of (typically) white range balls scattered across the grass.
  • They don’t show dirt as much. This is the reason my mom gave for dressing me in colored shirts for school. It still works.
  • You can pick the appropriate color of ball to fit your on-course mood: red for angry, yellow for cautious, green for full-speed-ahead, blue for sad. Obviously, you’re ignoring that goofy rule about playing the same ball every time. It’s an OK rule as far as it goes, but it stands in the way of fashion.
  • If the others in your foursome are playing white balls and you are not, there are likely to be fewer agreements about which ball belongs to which player over there in the high rough.
  • You also can use your colored golf balls at the Goofy Golf course on vacation. They endorse them.
  • And – admit it — they’re just more fun.

My playing partners, who like to complain about almost everything, often say they can’t see my ball in flight as easily when it’s red or green as opposed to white. Really what’s happening here is that my drives are so long and so high and hit with such majesty that those watching can’t keep up with them. I can see the problem.

To put it simply, they are green with envy.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.