A golf ball retriever is most often used to pull balls out of shallow water, but can also be used to corral a hard-to-reach ball, like those that settle on a hillside or under a bush. Retrievers come in different styles, including conventional, collapsible and as attachments to putters. Some of the bigger names in golf ball retrievers are I Gotcha, Z Tech and Callaway.
The most traditional or conventional golf ball retriever stands up in the bag and may be extended to 18 to 20 feet. This type of retriever usually extends by pulling the shaft out as needed and locking it in place. On the end of the shaft there may be a small basket or a spring-loaded locking device. As an example, the I Gotcha brand has a spring-loaded device that snaps shut around the ball, so you won't drop the ball once you've located it.
The collapsible golf ball retriever is perfect for those carrying their bags as the retrievers collapse to 12 to 18 inches, but extend 6 feet 6 inches or more. These retrievers are lightweight and so small that they can fit into the pocket of a golf bag. Collapsible retrievers are extended by pulling on the shaft. They do not usually need to be locked in place, and while this type of retriever may be less durable or sturdy than a conventional retriever, the trade-off is the small size and light weight. On the end of the shaft, there may also be a small basket or spring-loaded locking device.
The putter-attachment retriever serves a different purpose than traditional retrievers. Designed to help limit the amount of bending a golfer does, an attachment may be placed on the end of the putter and used to pick the ball up out of the cup. These retrievers may look like suction cups or have small arms that will hold the ball. Once the retriever is attached to your putter, just flip the putter upside down and place the butt end of the club over the ball to retrieve it.
Retrievers come in many styles, but a common thread in choosing a retriever should be durability. When selecting a retriever, look for a non-corrosive metal such as aluminum and an easy locking mechanism for a firm grip on the ball, so you do not have to worry about dropping the ball during retrieval.