Take a walk on the wild side: Play golf
Sometimes, the most memorable rounds of golf aren’t on highly ranked courses or with your best friends and family.
They happen where the wild things are. It seems I’ve seen more unique wildlife this summer than I can ever remember.
One of the greatest joys in golf is a happenstance encounter with a cool creature, rattlesnake or scorpion not included. Thankfully, I didn’t see either on my trips to Primland in southern Virginia or Scottsdale this year. The same rule that applies in the Arizona desert comes into play in the thick fescue of Primland’s Highland course: Enter at your own risk.
I don’t get jacked up anymore seeing birds, turtles and deer on the course (although running into two fawns and momma deer at dusk while playing the Otsego Club & Resort in Gaylord, Mich., was a pleasant surprise). They’re regular customers just like the golfers.
I’m talking about the bigger, more dangerous wildlife like crocodiles, bear and fox. I probably should include swans in that category. I saw a swan attack a golfer on a green at Cumberland Trail Golf Club in Ohio this spring (click for the course review here). I was actually so afraid the swan would swoop in after me, I three-putted the green. True story!
Anyway, alligators aren’t all that exciting, either. They’re on hundreds of Florida courses, but my encounter with a crocodile at the Iberostar Cancun Golf Club in Mexico was a bit unnerving (check out my course review here). There were two HUGE momma crocs that had nests on the edges of several fairways. The course did post signs everywhere warning of crocs (see photo below) and fenced off the areas, but my heart still nearly jumped out of my throat when one croc made a lunge toward my cart. The plastic orange fencing wasn’t going to save me, that’s for sure.
I saw the most beautiful fox (see photo below) at the Great Gorge Country Club at Crystal Springs Golf Resort in northern New Jersey this summer. My playing partners warned me that they’d read about problems with aggressive foxes in the area, so I kept my distance.
The biggest thrill came from my two bear sightings at Crystal Springs. As my two children and I were pulling up to the first tee of the Minerals Golf Course, a black bear cub sprinted across the fairway (see photo above). My children still talk about it.
The next day was even better at Great Gorge (click here for a review). As I approached a railroad track intersecting the cart path, I witnessed a huge black bear running down the tracks away from me. After about 20 yards, he veered off the rails and disappeared into the woods.
It didn’t top my favorite bear sighting, though. That occurred at Jasper Park Lodge deep in the Canadian Rockies in 2009. Out for an emergency nine after dinner, our group ran into a momma bear walking down the fairway with her two cubs. On another hole, another bear crossed right in front of the green. Needless to say, he had the right of way. We also saw plenty of elk, another huge animal that golfers should never mess with. Stupidly, I left my camera in the room that night. The elk photo below is from Stewart Creek, another fine mountain course from that trip.
My latest wildlife adventure was a bit tamer: Sheep on the Straits course at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. I was bummed the sheep were already in their pen for the night during my round. I got to play through the herd on the Irish course next door a few years ago (see the photo below). I’ve never seen sheep on a links overseas, but they still do give Whistling Straits that unique links feel lacking on so many American courses.
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