Golfer tired of searching for lost balls invents solution and launches startup

Phil Jones, a Richmond salesman and avid golfer, invented the Golf Ball Buoy. (Photos courtesy of Phil Jones)

Phil Jones and his golfing buddies have lost their share of golf balls.

Now, Jones has made a business out of all those hours spent wading through the rough.

The Richmond salesman invented and recently began selling the Golf Ball Buoy, a bright orange, weighted marker made of industrial canvas that’s used to mark where a player’s ball lands after an errant shot.

“The pros don’t hit it into the grass, it’s for the everyday golfer,” said Jones, who also works in national sales for Richmond-based ad firm NetSearch Digital Marketing.

“When you hit (the ball) outside of the fairway, you have to go look for it. One guy will point to it and then roll off on the cart, and then you come up and say ‘Hey, where’d my ball go?’ You waste all this time looking for the same ball you saw five minutes earlier,” Jones said. “It’s a fun way to mark the ball and help your buddies coming behind you.”

Sales of the Golf Buoy began earlier this summer, selling for $16.95 before tax. Jones said the price is less than the cost of items he and his pals often use as make-shift markers.

“Over time, we’d throw beer cans, golf hats or towels,” he said. “A nice golf hat is about $35, and when you have friends like I do and you throw that hat on the ground, the first thing it sees is the bottom of the golf cart tire. A golf towel is like $30 and you don’t want to keep throwing it down.”

Jones said he had previously pondered the idea but that it really got some momentum during the pandemic, when he had time to give it more thought.

After looking through different materials like those found in dog toys, juggling balls and cornhole bags, Jones settled on a potential look and feel for the Golf Ball Buoy. The bright orange golf marker is made in the U.S. by Allen Manufacturing in Lewiston, Maine. Jones said that the company works with industrial fabrics that are found in military gloves and lifejackets.

The Golf Ball Buoy is a bright orange, weighted marker made of industrial canvas.

Jones said that the trademark for Golf Ball Buoy is in its last stages after going through the process for 10 months. He has registered the name in the U.S. as well as globally, too. He said that he hopes to get a patent for the product.

Jones has paid for the startup entirely out of his own pocket, saying that initial research, artwork, business licensing and manufacturing cost him about $5,000.

To date he’s sold about 500 buoys, and last month scored his first bulk order: 130 shipped off to a golf event put on by Palmer Brothers Painting and General Contracting in Silver Springs, Maryland.

All sales thus far have gone through the Golf Ball Buoy website, but Jones gives some away to family and friends in exchange for helping spread the word. He currently runs the business out of his house and is the only employee.

“Now, with the golf courses that we’ve played at, we’ve left a few of them and people have started to recognize them,” he said.

At 61, Jones has been playing golf recreationally for more than 30 years and has worked in sales and business since he got out of college. He said his favorite course in the area is Independence Golf Club in Midlothian.

Jones said he is also a serial sender of unsolicited ideas.

“I’ve been doing it all my life. I have 30 or so (ideas) a day and just send them out,” he said. “I always come up with solutions to things and it’s kind of a hobby to send out letters or emails to companies for product ideas or improvements.”

With the Golf Ball Buoy, he’s getting the chance to take one of his ideas into his own hands.

“I’ve gone through all of the right steps to get a product out to the market that all came from an idea,” he said.

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Robert Wheatley
Robert Wheatley
1 month ago

Great idea, Phil! Great gift idea, too!
One suggestion on color: at some point, try to offer ones that are optic yellow. Folks who are color blind, like myself and a lot of other men, have a hard time seeing orange against the green grass. I can’t see orange golf balls at all once they hit the ground – optic yellow stands out much better!

John Sullivan
John Sullivan
1 month ago

Bingo. I can’t see orange either. Bright blue or yellow works.

Ned Rennolds
Ned Rennolds
1 month ago

Cool idea. Hope it takes off for him. BTW it’s Silver Spring, MD.

bob laughner
bob laughner
1 month ago

As a golfer for more than 40 years, I say “ARE YOU #%&$* KIDDING!” $16.95 to do what a towel does. I have no doubt you’ll be successful. There’s truly a sucker born every minute.

Tom Jones
Tom Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  bob laughner

I completely agree with you Bob. One, if you are looking for a found ball for minutes I’d hope you would have enough decency to drop. Two, you can use a towel, empty beer can, whatever you can have and save your self $20.00. Three if it’s that much of a problem for you and your golf buddies, you might want to spend some time at a driving range instead of selling “sucker” golfers into buy yet another useless gadget. Just saying…

Last edited 1 month ago by Tom Jones
Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 month ago

why can’t they put a little chip in the ball so you could find it via an app on your phone?

Julian Utley
Julian Utley
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

There’s a ball called “Genius” by a company named OnCore Golf. I’m not sure how successful it’s been.

BK Katherman
BK Katherman
1 month ago

ED
The golf ball manufactures don’t want a chip in the ball, it’s been estimated that they would lose 40% of their revenue. They contend that the chip would adversely affect the performance of the ball but at some point it will happen.

Greg Vernon
Greg Vernon
1 month ago
Reply to  BK Katherman

just like top golf chip balls only fly like 75%

Mario Volklskier
Mario Volklskier
1 month ago
Reply to  BK Katherman

I agree, it’s going to happen when a chip will be so small, the difference in performance will be equally small. BUT… one has to wonder what the price will b for a ball you can find (if not in a pond). So maybe they (ball makers) won’t lose 40% revenue. The Pros won’t use ’em, they don’t need to. :-{D

Rick Hecks
Rick Hecks
1 month ago

Why not use a wire with a flag on top like they do at the professional tournaments . It would stand out better in tall grass and probably a lot less expensive. Just my 2 cents

Steve Martinez
Steve Martinez
1 month ago

So let me get this right…. 1.you pay 17$ for this “buoy” 2.You throw it on the ground and drive away. 3.You hope the dude sees it and picks it up for you. 4. You wait around after your round in hopes that you get your buoy back?
All this for somebody you dont even know or even like because they hit into your group. ??? SMH.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Martinez
Keith Larkin
Keith Larkin
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martinez

I don’t think the intention is to mark players in the group behind you but rather someone in your own group. I know I’ve driven past other players’ balls in my group many times on the way to mine.

David Harden
David Harden
1 month ago

Screen print on the for companies and events. Seems like a winner. Somewhat costly for something you might not get back after the round. Golf courses could supply them on a cart but they would be gone in 60
seconds.

Henry Fordsom
Henry Fordsom
1 month ago

Amazing, I don’t even know why this was published.

Chris Terrell
Chris Terrell
1 month ago

Lot of replies from people thinking the device won’t be returned because you leave it behind. To help better understand, you’re not leaving it behind. Golfers take turns hitting their balls, but usually all balls are located before anyone hits to ensure order is followed,… so the hunt is on until all balls are found. If you find a ball but need to continue hunting or move on to someone else’s ball because it’s their turn to hit, you leave a visible marker so you can return without having to remember or find that exact spot again. The marker is… Read more »

Ryan Northup
Ryan Northup
1 month ago

Like many golfers, I carry a couple alignment sticks. When I find someone else’s ball i stick one in the ground… after they hit, it’s easy enough for them to pop it in their bag and hand back to me on the green/tee. Cheaper, much easier to deal with, and probably more effective.

Zach Thomas
Zach Thomas
1 month ago

I’m chuckling a bit at the golfers here pointing at the $17 spent on this product as a waste of money. I’m curious how many of you use a golf-specific towel instead of a $1 rag, or club covers instead of an old sock, or a club brush instead of an old tooth brush, or a name-brand polo instead of one from Wal-Mart….and let’s not even get started on splurging on the newest wedge, driver, or putter that almost certainly won’t improve your game. I’m not gonna rush out and buy one of these things, but I don’t think it’s… Read more »

Martin Gonzalez
Martin Gonzalez
1 month ago
Reply to  Zach Thomas

What I wish someone would invent a devise that can be attached to the chipper. To remind golfer when he leaves it. at the green after putting.