The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

Jul/Aug 2017


Association of Diving Contractors

Two sorry golf tales with two different outcomes

Who would have thought that the recovery of golf balls would figure in the news about diving activity on both sides of the Atlantic in the same week, but that is in fact how it has been reported.

In USA, a diver whose main business involved the collection of golf balls from the water features on golf courses around Florida was involved in an altercation with an alligator. The gator grabbed the diver’s arm whilst he was doing his golf ball recovery work, dragged him deeper into the water and started rolling him in an effort to disorientate and kill its new prey.

Having the wherewithal to fight back, the diver repeatedly punched the gator in the eye in an effort to free himself, and this action worked; he broke free and made for the bank where he hauled himself out of the water, all the time with the alligator in pursuit.


Not your everyday emergency event, but in this instance the ex-military diver did get away; he managed to call for help and was subsequently airlifted to hospital and underwent surgery for major muscle and artery damage. But the important point here is that he survived.

On this side of the Atlantic another golf ball recovery event that had occurred in February 2016 was concluded in court in early July 2017, when an individual was sentenced to 32 months in jail for breaching 16 health and safety regulations and the manslaughter of another person who he had involved in the venture to recover and sell golf balls online.

The sad difference in these two events was one of awareness. The diver involved in the event in Florida was a trained diver, had knowledge of the risks associated with diving, oddly enough was aware that the alligator resided in the watercourse in which he was diving, but did not perceive it to be a serious threat, and most importantly was only putting himself at risk. Definitely not an acceptable situation in the UK commercial diving environment, the only saving grace here is that he survived.


The UK event that occurred in Wales had a different backstory. The guilty party was aware of the risks and made a conscious decision not to use the correct equipment or a trained diver for purely commercial reasons; if a safer approach had been adopted this would have resulted in reduced profits for him and those associated. Added to this, in selling the concept to the golf course owners he claimed that he and his diver were qualified for the task.


Worst of all, he was not putting himself at risk, probably because he knew how dangerous this activity could be. Instead, he chose to retain the services of someone else whose learning capacity appears to have been in question, and who was willing to accept just £40 a day for his endeavours, a meager amount that ensured the guilty party could make his profit. It is therefore unlikely that the deceased party would have any conception of the risk to which he was exposing himself on that fatal day.


Despite these sorry tales, commercial diving does not have to be dangerous when it is carried out by competent persons who are trained to conduct diving operations, using equipment that is fit for purpose, working to a plan that mitigates the risks to those involved. It is of course questionable whether or not it would ever be commercially viable to recover golf balls using a properly constituted dive team.
The role of the client here is probably not as visible as maybe it should be. Just because the guilty party said he and his diver were qualified does not make it right. The client should have dug a bit deeper before granting permission to let them do the recovery on their property. If they had, we probably would have had one less avoidable fatal accident on the safety statistics for the various diving sectors in the UK.


Taira Caton, ADC Secretary





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