"I'm cleaning my ball so it will roll true," he answered.
"I know that, but do you have to use your tongue? Why don't you use a towel?"
"I don't have one with me. What's the big deal?"
"It's just disgusting. There could be all kinds of crap on that ball. Why don't you just lick the ground?"
He just rolled his eyes and shook his head as if I was the one being ridiculous. On the next green, he licked his ball again like he was working his way to the Tootsie Roll center. I didn't say anything about it to him again. I mean, who am I to question a scratch golfer?
I have since played with several golfers who lick their balls clean. Recently, I tracked down a course maintenance person and told him about this phenomenon. He informed me that there are indeed many toxic substances on a golf course that could cling to a golf ball. Fertilizer, weed killers, pesticides, and animal guano are just some of the awful things one may ingest from a soiled golf ball. He confirmed that it was not a good idea to lick your balls clean. In fact, he thought it was downright dangerous. Apparently, it's quite a common practice in Ireland.
So please, let this be a warning to you or someone you know who may suffer from this nasty habit.