Goat Power! October 11, 2010 By Pat Gross

Pasatiempo Golf Club (Santa Cruz, California) faced a dangerous and expensive problem trying to clear the overgrowth of poison oak and brush in the barrancas that run through the back nine.  The slopes are steep and inaccessible to equipment, making hand removal the only available option.  After investigating various alternatives, Superintendent Paul Chojnacky thought that since the course is a classic Alister Mackenzie 1930’s design, why not go back to the 1930’s brush clearing methods – goat power!

Farmers have known for centuries that goats have a voracious appetite and are known to eat many different types of vegetation, including poison oak.  Pasatiempo contracted with a company from Santa Barbara county, Brush Goats 4 Hire, and developed a plan to bring 150 to 200 goats onto the property.  To keep the goats inside the barrancas, solar–powered electric fences were installed.  Two dogs stay with the goats at all times to protect and herd the animals.  The goats will be on the property for approximately seven weeks to clear twelve acres of brush and vegetation in the barrancas.

Considering the alternatives, the decision to bring goats onto the golf course for brush clearing ended up being the most cost effective and practical solution.  Hiring a crew to clear vegetation would cost approximately $105,000.  Bringing in goats will cost $12,000.

Over the past five years, Pasatiempo has worked with Jim Urbina to restore the classic Alister Mackenzie design.  Removing the brush is expected to bring back the dramatic views of the barrancas in keeping with the 1930’s design.

Contact: Pat Gross, director, USGA Green Section Southwest Region,