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Keeping Your Eyes on the Ball

By Gene Wang
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, April 20, 2005; 8:55 AM

As sure as missing a two-foot putt on the 18th hole to break 100, losing balls is guaranteed to sully an otherwise pleasurable round of golf. I make that claim from years of experience. On a bad day, I lose at least a half dozen balls. And the bad days seem to outnumber the good ones by a wide margin.

To the rescue comes one of the newest and most welcomed products in the golf industry: eyewear that helps find errant balls. Visiball, the St. Louis-based maker (www.visiball.com), claims balls hidden in shrubbery or camouflaged in deep grass are easier to find when looking through the lenses.

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According to the company Web site, the science behind the glasses is referred to as the Perkinje shift. The lenses are supposed to reflect light off golf balls to match the wavelengths to which a person's retinal rods are most sensitive.

That sounds all fine and well in theory. I decided to put it to the test.

Stepping up to the tee, I became overwhelmed with the guilty pleasure of knowing that a banana slice was my desired shot instead of a dreaded outcome. So I stared down my Pro V1, smiled broadly and let 'er rip.

I didn't have to wait long to try out the product. The ball traveled on its familiar path, taking a right turn at approximately 100 yards and carrying into the woods. As I trudged down the fairway, over the first cut of rough and into the forest separating the course from a row of houses, I began my search.

Good thing no other players were behind me at the time. After 10 minutes of pushing aside low-hanging branches, uprooting patches of grass and kicking leaves and rocks, nothing. Time for the glasses.

Fulfillment was mine in a matter of minutes. Not only did I find my Pro VI, I found a handful of other balls, which of course I tossed into my bag with glee.

A few holes later, on a par-3, I hit into deep rough surrounding the green. Five minutes of chopping grass with my pitching wedge unveiled nothing. Again, time for the glasses.

Through the purple lenses appeared the small white orb, almost buried in a clump of high fescue.

A few more rounds with the glasses yielded similar results. The vast majority of the time, I can find my ball with ease while wearing the glasses. The times I can't, I usually stumble across other balls separated from their previous owners.

At $39.95 (plus shipping) per pair, the glasses are not inexpensive. But consider a box of new Pro V1 balls run $45 per dozen, and even a middling brand costs $30 for 12. How long would it take the high handicapper to lose enough balls to pay for the specs? Being able to purchase new golf balls by choice, and not necessity, makes the glasses a bargain.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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