When you think of hazards on a golf course you think bunkers, water and the occasional troublesome tree.

But on many occasions, additional unexpected hazards appear in the form of animals of varying shapes and sizes. From bears to bees, crocodiles to kangaroos, a range of animals have been known to plague both professional and amateur golfers across the world.

Mostly, these interventions cause amusement and no real harm but on occasions disturbing, or being disturbed, by a creature on the course can have very serious and sometimes deadly consequences. Here we look at some of the moments when unexpected playing partners take their turn.

Birdie Bother

Birdies and Eagles are a welcome addition to any golfers round in most cases. Heck, if things really go well you might even see the odd albatross. But sometimes these feathered friends become feathered foes and few animals cause the same disruption to a peaceful round of golf than birds.

Perhaps the most famous intervention from the skies came at the 1998 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. The infamous 17th ‘Island Hole; is widely regarded as one of the toughest challenges on the PGA Tour, with avoiding putting your tee shot in the water the main aim. But on this occasion, Steve Lowery couldn’t possibly have comprehended what would happen to his perfectly good tee shot. As he walked from tee to green, a seagull swooped and, after several attempts to pick the ball up, finally flew off with it – only to drop it in the middle of the water. Luckily for Lowery a bird is considered an ‘outside agency’ so he was able to replace his ball with no penalty, but that seagull certainly made a name for itself on one of the biggest stages in golf.

Professional golfers and amateurs alike struggle in their battle with the birds and many have captured their struggles on camera as their peaceful round was disrupted in irritating – and sometimes violent – fashion.

In 2014, an eagle landed on the green and proceeded to fly away with a man’s ball. But a more savage incident occurred when a golfer was reaching into his bag to find the right club and was rounded on by a grumpy goose, which launched an astonishing attack – much to the amusement of the playing partner.

Baboons and Bears

Animals don’t discriminate over who they disturb. Luke Donald is one of the biggest names in golf and one of the most calm, measured players on the tour. Missed putts, stray tee shots or a fluffed bunker shot don’t bother Donald but a baboon is a different story altogether.

In 2014, at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, the baboon scampered across the fairway and former world number one Donald – despite doing his best to style it out – was obviously perturbed by its arrival.

But while the baboon caused panic, some animals on the course cause nothing but smiles and laughter. Take the family of bear cubs that took up residence at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in Montana. The bears had no interest in the players approaching them and similarly had no intention of vacating the green to allow the round to continue. Instead, one of the cubs developed a great fascination with the flagstick – with hilarious results.

Just passing through

Sometimes it seems golf courses and indeed golfers just get in the way of the journey for some creatures – and they have no intention of changing course.

At the Women’s Open in Australia back in 2013, a group of kangaroos hopped across the fairway causing a brief interruption to play. And during the same week in Canberra, in the pre-qualifier, Daniela Holmqvist was bitten by a Black Widow spider on her ankle and proceeded to cut open the wound using a tee to squeeze out the venom of the potentially deadly spider.

And Holmqvist isn’t the only one who has been forced into desperate action by a creature or two on the course. At the 2014 Maybank Malaysian Open, Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal fell victim to an attack by a swarm of hornets and had to jump into a lake to escape.

Crocodiles & Alligators

In certain parts of the golfing world, where there’s water there are inevitably creatures lurking below the surface – creatures with razor sharp teeth and lightning fast jaws. While it’s fairly safe to wade in the water at Wentworth, there are some courses where the lakes are to be avoided at all costs.

But some players seem to be unaware of the dangers posed by alligators. In April 2014, John Petersen helped out playing partner James Driscoll when an alligator got in the way of his shot next to a pond. Petersen grabbed a bunker rake and proceeded to shove the alligator from behind into the water, in order to allow Driscoll to take his shot unobstructed. Quite an assist!

Crocodiles and alligators on a golf course should not be taken lightly however. Last year, a golfer in South Africa was killed by a crocodile as he stood waist-deep in a dam collecting balls from the surface. 29-year-old Jacques van der Sandt was dragged under the water and his body was discovered the next morning. And in April this year, 75-year-old Australian golfer John Lahiff was lucky to escape with just puncture wounds in his leg after being bitten by a crocodile at the Palmer Sea Reef golf course in Port Douglas, Queensland – giving a very real reminder of the dangers posed by the appearance of these animals on the course.

Whilst some of these hazards may seem exotic and not likely to spring up on your golf course, you will most certainly have some hazards of your own that need to be mitigated and taken into account within your health and safety procedures and risk management practices. You may even have the odd grass snake winding its way around, or holes caused by animals that could cause injuries and golf liability claims. Call Gauntlet Golf on 0113 244 8686, to find out how to access professional and friendly risk management advice with this part of your golf club’s management.

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