Feb 11

Goats for Caddies – Uh-Oh!

Leave It to Oregon to Train Goats as a Golfer’s Best Friend

The Silvies Ranch in Eastern Oregon has been around for over a century, and has done quite well for a location unknown to even most Oregonians. The ranch serves Grant County. Eastern Oregon is largely devoid of people, forests, and other Oregon symbols, but sparse as it may be, the landscape has its own beauty, not to mention a healthy display of wildlife. The counties of Grant and Harney do not possess booming economies, so any good ideas that come along to help are gratefully received. In that spirit, the Oregon Legislature of 2011 passed a measure calling for a group of guest cabins to be built on the ranch. In the end, the final number exceeded five hundred. The business became, although still a working facility, also a  ‘Guest Ranch.” There are always people who want to get away from everything, and Silvies Valley pretty much accomplishes just that – everything. Use the movable online map, and swipe it as many times as you like. You still won’t find Portland or Eugene. To heighten the allure of this rolling and occasionally mountainous country, a new golf course is being installed, a 7-hole obstacle course cut out of the vast scenery and blue sky above. It has been charmingly dubbed McVeigh’s Gauntlet. Sounds imposing, doesn’t it.? Don’t worry, though. The ranch has gathered the best local talent available to help visitors navigate these links. It is always a good idea to feature what one has in abundance rather than import. So, your finely trained caddie will be one of the locally raised goats, led by what I take to be the master caddie, Bruce LeGoat.

The goats, according to ranch and course officials, were “born, raised, and educated on the property.”They will carry clubs, tees, balls, and drinks, wearing specially-fitted back-pack harnesses. This is so Oregon…creative, imaginative, solution-oriented, but they only made one mistake. They did not consult with me first. I could have told them everything there is to know about goats on golf courses, but now it’s too late.  In my days searching for balls on the 8th rough at Neskowin Beach, which I did with great frequency, I learned several things. First, you can’t search for golf balls without looking hard, focused and concentrating. There is no field of vision for anything else. Goats understand this perfectly. Second, when a ball is found, one must bend over to pick it up, No American goat worth its salt can resist this. The appearance of an unattended derriere is like a red cape to bulls. Third, goats have horns, and they understand this as well. Finally, once having knocked you over, they will delight in repeating the assault for the rest of the day. Once they realize what an easy target one is, they will attack whether one is bent over or not. Try to stare them down, and it will go even worse. I am almost sure that I still have scars from my regular encounters, and feel sore even remembering those days.

Could they have used something other than goats? Sheep are far too skittish. South Americans uses llamas, and Oregon has some. Burros? No way, I’ve been in a pack of wild burros when I ran out of snacks for them – they turn evil in an instant. Ostriches? Clearly not. Maybe goats in lieu of golf carts is the only option after all in the wilds of Eastern Oregon. But they had better not vocalize on my back swing, or take exception to bending over to retrieve a ball from the hole. Each player might want to consider a spotter to monitor imminent attacks. Well, Silvies Ranch seems determined to do this, with no ifs, ands, or butts – but that last one has me worried.

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