How Golf Ball Country Turned a Hobby Into a Living
If you’re a golfer, you know that one of the best feelings in the world is when the ball bounces off the face of your club and goes straight down the fairway towards the green. Your club strikes the perfect amount of grass (or tee) and the ball and your hands barely feel a thing as your ball soars through the air.
But if you’re like most recreational golfers, you’re also all too familiar with the opposite feeling. The shaft of your club rattles your hands and the ball sails off in the wrong direction into the woods, or worse yet, it makes a splash in the pond and is gone forever.
Or is it?
Golfers lose an estimated 300 million golf balls each year. This is where David Brink comes in.
Brink’s business, Golf Ball Country, buys used golf balls from all over the country and recycles and sells them at a lower price than brand-new ones. This helps golfers save money and has a positive environmental impact.
His business venture started from his home in Phoenix and has expanded to fill two warehouses in Spencer, Iowa.
Just a Few Bucks, For Starters
Originally from Michigan, Brink moved to Phoenix in 2009. As a child a few of his friends worked at a golf course and, together, they started collecting used golf balls they had found.
“Growing up in Michigan, we didn’t really do much to the balls,” Brink explained. “We would collect them and sell them at garage sales to make a few extra bucks here and there.”
Brink didn’t fully understand just how big this endeavor could get until he attended a golf trade show in Phoenix. He met with a guy who introduced him to the recycled golf ball industry and taught him about how he could turn his part-time hobby into a legitimate, full-time business.
“I knew recycled golf balls were a thing, but I had never really considered the idea that I could do more with the golf balls than just selling them at garage sales as-is,” Brink said.
After that conversation, he started buying used golf balls on Craigslist and from people in the community and selling them on Ebay. By the end of 2015 Brink was selling nearly one million balls a year by himself.
Investors on Board
In 2016 Brink and his family moved to Spencer, and a relative encouraged him to meet with two potential investors: Josh Nelson and John Zulk. After hearing Brink’s pitch, they invested in his business and it took off.
Nelson and Zulk were instrumental in guiding the growth of Golf Ball Country, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
“When the pandemic began, more people looked for outdoor activities and became interested in golf,” Brink said. “Josh and John guided me and helped me scale the business to meet the high demand for golf balls and become more profitable.”
As bars, restaurants and other indoor establishments closed at the beginning of the pandemic, golfing became one of the main ways people could spend time with their friends and family outside of their homes.
“One of the best things about golf is that you can get outside with your friends and socialize in the nice weather,” Brink said. “You don’t even have to be good. It’s just fun to get outside with your friends and family.”
That year, Brink says, his sales increased by about 1 million balls.
Financing for the Future
Early on, Brink didn’t have much need for working capital, but as more people became more interested in golf and his products, he knew he would need more space for inventory. As the business grew from a spare bedroom to two spare bedrooms to the garage and then to two storage units in Arizona, he knew he would need financing to increase his capacity.
“To meet the demand, we typically need to have around 2 million balls on hand at a time,” Brink explained. “Running out of space has been one of our biggest problems.”
Brink was already acquainted with Northwest Bank Commercial Banker Paul Daniels through their community involvement. With Daniels’ help, Brink financed inventory and equipment to increase his processing capacity.
“In the beginning, I just had a standard ball washer that you would see at a golf range, and I could only process about 5,000 balls a day,” Brink said. “But today, with the expanded capacity, I can process up to 20,000 balls a day.”
Now Golf Ball Country sells nearly 4 million balls per year.
Out of the Pond, Through The Warehouse, Into Your Golf Bag
Today, most of the golf balls Brink buys come from businesses specializing in recovering lost balls from ponds on golf courses. These balls come from all over the country, but mostly from states where golfers play year-round.
“Sometimes these businesses get 15,000 to 30,000 balls per day,” Brink explained.
When the balls arrive they go through the washing process. They are cleaned and restored using an environmentally friendly acid bath that removes dirt and debris without impacting the playability of the ball.
After the balls are dry, they are run through a robotic sorting machine that separates the balls by brand or model. Then Brink and his team inspect them by hand and grade them into one of three categories based on their quality:
- First-quality balls have hardly been played and look brand-new.
- Second-quality balls have minor imperfections but are still in very good shape.
- Third-quality balls have scuffs, marks and imperfections but are still playable.
Brink then sells to customers through his website, on Ebay, in golf course club houses and on Amazon, where Brink says he does most of his business.
A Hobby for a Living
With the help of Daniels, Northwest Bank and his investors, David Brink has grown a hobby into a full-time job.
“I never planned on making a living doing this,” Brink said. “You have to make a lot of sacrifices to run a business, but seeing what this has become has made it worth every moment.”
Our commercial banking team helped Brink grow his business and we can help you too. To learn how, contact a commercial banker today.
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