MONTEREY (KPIX 5) — Pebble Beach is one of the most beautiful places in America, among the most spectacular places to play golf anywhere.
But just off the manicured fairways and beneath the waters of the Monterey Bay, golf balls by the handful litter the ocean floor.
“These are the broken down golf balls. As you can see, the plastic chips off and becomes micro plastic and this is what the fish eat,” Carmel High School Student Alex Weber said.
Weber and Jack Johnston discovered hundreds, if not thousands of lost, broken and unraveling golf balls while recreational free diving.
“Last May, Jack and I got together and decided this was a huge environmental problem and we needed to change it,” Weber said.
They went back for another dive, this time with underwater cameras.
The video shows pile upon pile of golf balls hidden among the kelp beds and sharp rocks.
Errant shots hit into the water by generations of Pebble Beach golfers – forgotten – until now.
“When we started, I was expecting a couple of golf balls here and there, but when we went down there, the whole seafloor is covered with golf balls. It’s like getting punched in the gut. There’s so much beauty and it’s just getting ruined by all these golf balls,” Jonhston said.
“It was surprising, since no one before these two intrepid teenagers had brought that to our attention before,” Mark Stilwell with the Pebble Beach Company said.
The video posted on YouTube got the attention of the company, which owns the golf links and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – charged with protecting the sensitive habitat.
“We’re going to assess just how serious the situation is, and work together with folks to clean it up,” Paul Michel of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary said.
The two teens have already jumpstarted the cleanup on their own, and they started a Go Fund Me page to pay for it, and help with their tuition to study marine biology.
It’s believed to be the first underwater cleanup of golf balls here in the 97-year history of the links.