|Golfers at Settlers’ Ghost Golf Course near Barrie play while Snipper the goat goes about his job getting rid of the weeds, June 19, 2012. (J.T. McVeigh/QMI Agency)
ORO-MEDONTE TWP, Ont. — Settlers’ Ghost Golf Course near Barrie could possibly be the first course in Canada to put four-legged grounds keepers on staff.
And they’re not kidding.
A pair of six-month-old goats named Whipper and Snipper are causing quite a stir among the golfers.
“When we had a Mother’s Day brunch here, people were bringing their children and spent hours just patting the two little animals,” general manager Lana Stoddart said.
The goats aren't being kept for their looks, though -- these two are expected to produce.
On a hill beside the start of the first hole, the pair start munching their way through the weeds that crowd the cart path.
“They eat the flowers off of the weeds first,” said Chris Gulliver, course superintendent and brains behind this green effort. “And then they start working on the rest of the plant.”
On the less frivolous side, this is an attempt to reduce the pesticide and herbicide load that almost all golf courses experience.
“We’re fortunate enough to be surrounded by wildlife, which we take very seriously, and I am always researching ways that we can become more environmentally friendly. Through looking for solutions, I found a number of countries which have been using goats,” Gulliver said.
“If you look back old school in Scotland where golf originated, it was goats and sheep that kept most of those golf courses trimmed and weed-free.”
So Gulliver took his idea to the board. He admits that there was a bit of giggling, but then they did a little research on their own and suddenly the workforce at the course increased by two.
“The cost of these two goats is equivalent to about one carton of herbicide. Just from a monetary side, this makes sense,” Gulliver said. “The thing is that, once the weed killer is gone, it’s gone. The goats are going to be here for years.”