Thursday, May 7, 2009
A Look Into the Validity of The 17th Water Ball Claim
If you didn't know this, TPC Sawgrass claims that they pull out nearly 120,000 golf balls out of the water surrounding the 17th hole each year. If you think that number is staggering, you're not alone. One of our readers, John, who admitted to having too much time on his hands at work, actually broke down the number (he even used Excel!) and came up with this staggering explanation of how that number cannot be possible. Here is the e-mail. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Have you seen the postcard on Waggle Room from Sawgrass (Ed. note -- story about all the balls is here)? The one that claims that 120,000 (that’s one hundred and twenty THOUSAND balls a year are lost to the water at 17?
I saw that and instantly said “there is no goddamn way that’s true.” Then I set out to PROVE that there’s no goddamn way it’s true.
To prove this, let’s do some neato-nifty Fermi math.
Now, let’s start off with some theoretical assumptions to maximize the number of balls that can possibly be whacked into the water on 17. First, we will assume that it never rains. In Florida this is admittedly extraordinarily unlikely, but that’s math for you. Secondly, we will assume that every professional golfer on earth is stricken with swine flu and thus there is no Players’ Championship in our rain-free year, so that we can thirdly assume the course is constantly in use by the maximum number of players at all possible times. Setting aside for the moment the possibility of people playing glow golf – which, while fun, I do not recommend in a state with alligators – the question of what constitutes people playing at all possible times becomes one of daylight.
So how much daylight are we talking about?
The TPC at Sawgrass is just past 30 degrees north Latitude.
The good folks at Microsoft provide us with a very useful “Hours of Daylight by latitude” table.
A little Excel magic tells us that Ponte Vedra Beach gets, at a rough estimate, approximately 4,467 hours of daylight a year.
Going off the claim from the TPC that 120,000 golf balls go into the drink per year, we can calculate that for that number of balls to go in the water, 27 people per hour need to tee off at 17 and put their shot right into the drink. That’s once every 2.23 minutes.
So, under optimal conditions, for this postcard to be accurate someone has to put a ball in the water at 17 every 133 seconds for an entire year.
Given that our optimal conditions are completely, ridiculously, hilariously impossible, my conclusion is:
Damn you and your lying-ass postcards, TPC at Sawgrass.
First, I will admit that this is the most entertaining (and probably intelligent) e-mail I have ever received in all my years of blogging. I have a rule in movies that if I laugh out loud four times or more, I will consider it a success, and this e-mail did just that.
The only thing I will say is that I've heard of people going to Sawgrass and not even being able to get to the 17th because so many people are dropping golf balls and hitting them into the drink. It is like the grass behind the "Sergio Tree" at Medinah. Everyone wants a chance to do what the pros do.
Nonetheless, I hope you were as entertained as I was with this little fact-hunting exhibition. TPC Sawgrass, we need some FACTS!
Ball hunting photo courtesy of Caryn Levy, PGA Tour/Getty Images