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It still feels like a novelty,” says Campbell Mathieson, co-founder of Ayrshire Discount Golf Balls. He’s in his warehouse, or ‘emporium ‘as the team like to call it, surrounded by 60,000 golf balls.  

According to Mathieson and co-founder Andy Bogle, that’s the warehouse at just over 50% capacity. Until a few huge orders cleared out a large section of “budget balls”, the place was overflowing.

While they might think it’s still just a novelty, this is now a serious business for the lads from Ayrshire.

It all started in 2020 when Andy and Campbell, like the rest of us, had nothing to do and wanted to get out to work on their games.

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“One night I said to Andy, ‘Do you fancy going to the range?’” Campbell recalls.

“I couldn’t really be bothered paying for balls, though. It’s quite a cost if you’re going a few times a week.

“Andy said, ‘Well, I actually have about 5,000 balls in my garage, so we can just go up and hit them.’ I really had to take a step back when he said that.”

That collection had once belonged to Andy’s late grandfather and ranged from vintage balls, that were around 20-years-old, to Titleist Pro V1s. Fair to say the old-style spheres were in much healthier supply than the top-of-the-range offerings.

“I searched on the internet for how to clean up golf balls and the first thing that came up was to use bleach,” Campbell said.

“The next day, we went to Morrisons and got some own brand bleach. Loads of it. We cleaned up the balls and, honestly, they were trashed.”

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Still, a seed had been planted. Rather than hit the balls themselves and lose them in the thick rough of Troon Darley or Dundonald Links, the pair decided they could sell them for a bit of extra cash instead.

“It was a desperate collection of golf balls but it got us started,” says Campbell. “We were just enjoying it so much. It still feels fun, and that’s probably because when we got started it was so much fun.”

After a few weeks, the original 5,000 balls were sold out and ‘Ayrshire Discount Golf Balls’ was already helping not just golfers but also the community. Campbell had reached out to Whiteleys Retreat, a local charity that helps children with life-altering illnesses. After a successful start to the business, they were in a position to donate to the charity, and have already gifted them over £4,500, hence the slogan, ‘Good baws, better cause.’

Ayrshire Golf Balls

“By this point, we had articles out in the Ayrshire Post and with the area being so golf orientated, there were loads of folk, similar to Andy’s granddad, with golf balls lying around who wanted to help us out.

“That meant we could sell the balls with pretty much no expense to us.”

That was all well and good but with Campbell moving back to Newcastle to continue his work as a junior doctor and Andy continuing at university, there was a decision to be made about the future of the company.

“We weren’t sure if we would be able to keep going with it or if it would be too much time and too much effort. But we thought we might as well try it.

“We had no staff, so if it all went wrong, we had nothing to lose and we could just call it a day. Thankfully, it kept ticking over in the winter.”

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Ticking over might be an understatement. By the start of the 2021 golf season, things had really taken off.

That’s where Michael Miller, the new general manager of the operation, comes in. Miller saw the role advertised on the company’s Facebook page, and now he’s in charge of day-to-day operations at the warehouse.

“When I saw this, it really caught my eye,” he says. “It’s something pretty unique and it’s a company that’s clearly on the up.

“The vision for me is to make Ayrshire Discount Golf Balls a household name. I want everyone in golf clubs around the UK to know who we are.

“We really want to continue to lead the way in the recycled golf ball market but also keep giving back to local charities like Whiteleys Retreat.”

The team reckons around 1,000 balls travel out the front door every day.

That process is possible thanks to the team at the emporium, largely made up of schoolkids and students from Troon, who bustle about the warehouse floor, packaging up balls that have been organised via a new ‘contraption’ that has been built in the unit.

This contraption allows the team to sort the balls into around 60 categories, based on brand and condition. ‘One hit wonder’ balls go in the mint grade chute, while those that have had a harder life go into the C grade tray.

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Not every ball that comes in to the warehouse makes it out. A box, simply labelled, ‘Unusual’ sits pride of place beside the office, which some wacky balls find their way into.

As you might expect on the west coast of Scotland, football logos appear more frequently than anything else, as well as some odd slogans.

“Here’s one, it just says ‘Andy’ on the side,” says Michael. “You’ll get things with birthday messages, or just people’s faces on them, ‘If found, please return to…’ all that kind of stuff. Clearly the ‘return to golfer’ message hasn’t worked in this case, though.

“We had a Vice ball that came in that just said, ‘I’m pure pish’ on it. That gave us a good laugh. At least they were honest!”

Ayrshire Golf Balls Close Up

Being able to have a good laugh, Andy says, is going to be key to the business growing from the humble beginnings of his garden.

“As we were putting our hands in the bucket of my granddad’s balls, it was just ‘Dunlop, Top Flite, Dunlop, Top Flite, Pinnacle.’ When you saw a Callaway Big Bertha, you’d be like, ‘Yes!’ When we saw a Pro V1, we’d be hugging each other.

“There was one day we were just guessing how much we were going to make and how much we could raise for charity. I was being quite modest and I think I said we could make about £200 out of these if we’re lucky.

“Campbell was a bit more ambitious and guessed around £1,000. To end up in this position – with a manager, staff, a warehouse – is beyond our wildest imagination.”

For more information on Ayrshire Discount Golf Balls, click here.

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Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

Performance Editor

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