COURSE CARE
Man Is A Dog’s Best Friend! May 21, 2012 By Larry Gilhuly

Notice that Mo's eyes are fixed on an unrepaired ball mark. Now if he could only learn how to fix them also.

When you think about it, golf courses may be the perfect playground for a dog. Lots of animals to chase, plenty of water to drink or go for a swim and ample room for exercise are just the start. For dogs, perhaps the best part of a golf course are the many humans that need to be sniffed, spoken to, tail wagged for and snacks consumed from. Yes, a golf course is the perfect place for a dog and we see them frequently during Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visits. Fortunately, canines offer many benefits to your golf course. Below are a few examples you may or may not have considered.

A recent visit to Tobiano Golf in beautiful Kamloops, B.C., involved not only a review of the agronomic programs and issues at this outstanding facility, but also a glimpse at what has been going on in the golf industry. Tobiano is in receivership due to lack of play in a somewhat isolated site. Despite being ranked the best public and conditioned golf course in British Columbia by a leading trade magazine, the cost for golfers to travel to this great site combined with limited expendable incomes have caused major financial hurdles for Tobiano. So what does this have to do with a dog? It’s all about the need for positive feedback.

We all know there is a reason why dogs are a man’s best friend. Loyalty, protection, the goofy tail wagging and perpetual “what-can-I-do-for-you-next” attitude are just some of the noticeable aspects of many breeds. On a golf course, there is no question that a dog is indispensible if there are issues with birds (Canada geese, widgeons, coots, etc.) because they help to minimize potential damage. However, dogs are even more important in regard to the psychological effect they have on three main groups of humans.

  • The maintenance staff.  Early morning starts are easy for some and tough for others, but who does not appreciate a friendly dog greeting them to say good morning? A well-trained and friendly dog can be the perfect antidote (if only for a few seconds) to start or end a hard day of work.
  • The golf course superintendent.  Make no mistake about it, a good dog is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, friend a golf course superintendent can have. Always there with a good attitude, ready for new excitement each day and agreeing that the bunkers are consistent and the greens the right speed. How can it get any better? When times are tough, having a good friend alongside that cannot disagree with how the course looks or plays is doggone helpful.
  • The golfers.  Perhaps the greatest psychological aspect to having a good dog in the seat next to you is when golfers approach with a question or comment. Too many times to count during TAS visits I’ve performed over the past three decades I have seen angry golfers approach the superintendent and  simply melt if a dog is nearby. Following a little petting and scratching of our four-legged friends, golfers say to heck with the greens not being perfect or the bunkers not to their liking. It is interesting how comments or suggestions that follow time spent with a dog are made with a completely different presentation after having that kind of positive feedback.

Now, back to Tobiano. Superintendent Terry Smith has a young chocolate lab named Mo. Mo is smart and has learned many of the basic dog commands along with quite a few tricks. He is obviously a great friend to Terry and a major stress reliever in a tough situation. Perhaps the best trick Mo has been taught is to avoid entering bunkers or stepping on putting greens. In fact, he has been trained so well that he absolutely refuses to set even one paw on either playing area. As you can see in the photo, Mo is following his lesson well. But look a little closer and you will notice that his eye is totally focused on an unfixed ball mark. This lasted for well over five minutes! According to Terry, the brownish color of the mark reminds Mo of a small mouse hole similar to those commonly found in the deep roughs throughout the golf course. Because Mo cannot get any closer to the ball mark without stepping onto the green he could quite possibly spend the entire day waiting for a mouse to emerge from the ball mark! Personally, I think he is just trying to remind all golfers to fix their ball marks. So, listen to Mo and fix yours and one other. And, if you run into Mo at Tobiano, give him a scratch on his head. It will make you both feel better.

Larry Gilhuly can also be one of your best friends by subscribing to the USGA Green Section Turf Advisory Service. While he does not respond well to head scratching, he promises to provide excellent service in these difficult economic times. He and Derf Soller can be contacted in the Northwest Region at lgilhuly@usga.org or dsoller@usga.org.

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