At some courses, sand bunkers and water aren’t the only hazards faced by golfers.
Bear Attack Par for the Course?
At 300 pounds and standing 6 feet and change, Hardyston, New Jersey golf course groundskeeper George Petta is not a man likely to be easily intimidated.
But Petta met his match in June on the 17th hole at Crystal Springs Golf Course and he has the scratches and ripped shirt to prove it.
The 37-year-old said he bent over to work on a hole in some turf when he was suddenly knocked down by a black bear.
“I bent over the hole. I heard a sound behind me, like squirrels jumping around in the trees, and when I turned around she was right there hitting me,” Petta told the Newark Star-Ledger.
Authorities later captured and euthanized the bear after determining that lakes and sand traps were sufficient hazards for golfers to contend with.
“I never knew what hit me,” recalled the groundskeeper. “She hit me so fast, tearing my shirt, hitting my chest and my arm. She hit me at least three or four times. And then she punched me one last time in the face before she left.”
Golfers at three courses in southern Maine who have witnessed their golf balls being swiped off the greens by 4-legged thieves are well aware of the rule that no penalty is assessed when a ball at rest is moved by “an outside agency.” It’s widely understood by golfers here that there’s no need to add a stroke to the scorecard when the offending culprit is a fox or coyote.
Dozens of incidents involving ball-stealing critters have been reported at courses in the region during the past year.
The most credible theory to explain the unusual behavior is that the bouncing ball and its resemblance to an egg triggers a wild canine’s animal instinct to pounce and grab.
The Kennebec Journal reports that Tom MacDowell and Bill Fogel were playing a round at Portland’s Riverside Golf Course as they watched MacDowell’s ball fall just short of the 14th green. A coyote immediately shot out of a nearby wooded area, scooped up the ball in its mouth and trotted back to the trees.
“Maybe he collects Nike golf balls,” MacDowell suggested.
The newspaper reported foxes have become as much of a hazard as the ponds and sand traps at the Highland Green Adult Resort Community and Golf Course in Topsham for the past several years.
Highland Green resident Lyn Adams said she found a cache of balls near a fox den while walking with her husband in the woods near the course.
“There were 30 balls buried, covered with leaves and dirt,” she said.
While their antics and ball thievery can be somewhat of a nuisance to golfers, course officials have nothing but kind words to say about the ball-hunting inhabitants of the woods and rough. That’s because in addition to pilfering Titleists during the day, the foxes and coyotes are also keeping the groundhog, mole and vole population in check.
And for groundskeepers striving to maintain smooth greens and hole-free fairways, that’s a good thing.
Cougar Interrupts Dakota Golf Match
It’s not uncommon for wild critters to be attracted to lush, moist and well-manicured golf courses. There’s plenty to browse and nibble on—no matter on what end of the food chain one resides.
We’ve heard of elk trampling greens in Banff, Alberta, gators crossing fairways in Florida, coyotes chasing rabbits across links in Arizona and the ornery Canada geese that inhabit water hazards in the Midwest. But the Rapid City (S. Dakota) Journal reported a high school boy’s golf match at the Tomahawk Country Club in Lead was recently interrupted when a full-grown mountain lion was seen on the eighth fairway.
Lead’s head golf coach, Joan Rachetto, said she thought someone had scored a hole-in-one when she heard all the commotion during her team’s match with Sturgis.
Rachetto said the cougar stood at the ninth tee box before being spooked by the gallery following a group of players. It reportedly retreated into the trees.
“They will be talking about this story for quite a while,” the coach said.
Here at Offbeat Outdoors, we can only surmise that perhaps the big feline assumed the large sand traps surrounding the greens were conveniently placed to serve as its own personal kitty litter box.