Sunday, August 19, 2007

Scouting Landmines

David Citadel Hotel (downtown Jerusalem) –

900,000,000 golf balls are lost in the United States every year.

Earlier today, I was transfixed by an infomercial for the Ballfinder Scout, a device that finds lost golf balls in the rough through a combination of digital camera and GPS technology. In what looked like the Everglades, a polo shirt-clad Nick Faldo used the Scout to find lost balls. He then demonstrated how to take advantage of that saved stroke by hacking out of the treacherous terrain. The Scout works anywhere, as long as three little white dimples of your lost ball are showing. And for $169, you get the Scout, a handsome carrying case to add to the blackberry or cell phone holder already on your Batman utility belt, and a video of Nick Faldo battling it out in the wilderness.

The Scout, which captured my imagination, is sold in more than 20 countries, including the UAE (watch out for the sand traps)! For some reason, though, as I sat at the David Citadel swimming pool surrounded by Orthodox Jewish swimmers, some in sporty looking bathing skirts, I couldn’t shake my association of the Scout with landmines. Finding golf balls saves money, time, and a stroke on the course, but as I watched golfers find balls through various furry roughs with their Scouts, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this technology could be used for other things too.

When I backpacked in Cambodia a few years ago, I remember reading in Rough Guide about landmines all over the country. There were pervasive stories of children losing limbs in minefields, and landmine victims were a common sight in Phnom Penh. The problem of landmines – especially as they relate to children and agriculture – seem to be a constant in the background of books and movies set in Afghanistan too.

After doing a little internet research, I found out that the problem isn’t so much finding the landmines in these and other countries, it is coming up with the money to de-mine fields. So, the Scout’s technology isn’t needed, but a donation from their profits would certainly be welcome. I felt as if there was a common enough link – digging around in the weeds for golf balls and digging around in fields for land mines, that I sent the Scout people the letter below, inviting them to become unofficial ambassadors.

I’ll let you know if there is a response. In the meantime, the links (below) are worth checking out.

August 19, 2007

Dear Ebby Lewis and Dennis Garrison,

I recently learned about the Ballfinder Scout through an infomercial broadcast in a Jerusalem hotel. Congratulations on your success and remarkable use of technology.

As I watched Nick Faldo and other golf pros poking around in the rough and using the Scout to find their lost balls, I couldn’t help but think about children in Cambodia and Afghanistan poking around in the fields of their respective countries. Tragically, those fields are full of landmines. Did you know that 70 million landmines lie unexploded in more than 80 countries? Or that 15,000 – 20,000 people are killed or maimed by a landmine every year, a third of which are children?

I recognize that landmine victims and potential victims in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Bosnia are not your target audience for the Scout. Still, I’d like to ask that the Scout consider taking on the issue of de-mining as a philanthropic project. At, you can see that for $30,000, the Scout can support a full de-mining team in a high priority area in Afghanistan for two-months. At, you can find information about supporting the construction of wells (about $1500 each) and securing clean water for mine-affected communities.

As sporting goods entrepreneurs, perhaps you are wondering why this matters to you. Besides the positive publicity that taking on landmines would generate for the Scout (by the way, I’ve given you a nice plug on my blog), you’d be acting in a way that creates hope and opportunity for others. If there were neither hope nor opportunity in the 20+ countries that the Scout is sold, there wouldn’t be a lot of golfers.

I hope that you'll seriously consider giving to this cause. I look forward to hearing about your success in this and other areas.


Benjamin Orbach
author of Live from Jordan

No comments: