THE SUPER DOGS OF GOLF

 

Dogs have long been by the side of golf course superintendents as they help tend the course. Here are some of the adorable canines throughout Australian golf. 

 

It’s official. The golf course superintendents of Australia have gone to the dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, dogs of different breeds, dogs of mixed breeds, dogs of all shapes, sizes and colours. 

These good boys and girls bring something to the course that is very special. Whether it be for staff or players, they make a bad day tolerable, a good day even better, and they give of themselves as only a dog can. 

Let’s meet some of the super dogs of Australian golf.

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Geraldine O’Callaghan poses for a photo with her dog Ron

The only Bogey welcomed by members at Bayview GC in Sydney is a happy, busy, people-loving purebred Border Collie. While strictly speaking owned by Bayview GC caretaker Rus, Bogey is everyone’s friend and an important part of the course maintenance team, answering to course super James Thomas. Bogey’s days are full and have been since he arrived at Bayview at just six weeks old. 

Now a ‘mature’ one-year old, Bogey starts his day with Rus, setting up the course, and ends it with him too, checking alarms, shutting gates and other after-hours tasks. In the middle, he’s happy to hang with anyone, chasing the maintenance vehicles until he needs a rest whereupon he’ll jump in the van tray and regroup. 

The one task he’s not keen on is anything to do with a pull-start. Try using a whipper-snipper or a blower in his vicinity and you can expect barks louder than the machine itself. 

Being a Border Collie, he attempts to round up ducks on the course, largely scoring bogey in that part of his game but ace after ace when it comes to the members. 

They love him. He’s always getting pats from them, you’ll see them coming from two fairways away to give him a pat. He loves the attention, he just rolls on his back so he can get a belly rub. He’s like that with all the staff, too, he loves everybody,” says James.

So pup-ular is young Bogey that he has his own Instagram account,  bogey_the_bayview_bordercollie – where he has 355 dedicated followers – and his own staff (the girls in the office) to manage it for him. To say he is photogenic is an understatement. 

With his on-course talents and his natural people skills, this guy is management material. Better watch out, James.  

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Patch of Kalgoorlie GC in WA is a man who has definitely landed on his paws. This beautiful young fellow, a red heeler X blue heeler, had the misfortune to find himself unwanted and in a pound at a very young age. But to his rescue came Kalgoorlie super Patrick Casey and Patch is now living the good life.

With typical heeler loyalty and some likely very poor experiences in his early days, Patch is not always the friendliest of boys, so he mostly accompanies Patrick after hours and on days when the course is closed, such as Christmas Day and Good Friday. On those days, though, he makes the most of his opportunity. 

He loves coming out on the golf course,” says Patrick. “He loves driving around in the back of the Workman and helping me hand water the greens on the days he’s there. He’s a good foreman.”

Heelers were bred to drive stock and Patch is true to his heritage. Kalgoorlie GC is home to abundant wildlife and our man is happy to let them know this is his patch, not theirs. 

We have kangaroos all over the golf course, so he loves chasing them around. Hasn’t caught one yet. He likes chasing all the wildlife we have out there. He loves jumping after the pigeons too. He doesn’t understand how they can fly and he can’t.”

golfing dog

What is welcome, though, is a tennis ball. The young Patch was offered toys when he first arrived but tennis balls proved his favourite and now he’s obsessed with them, playing with nothing else. 

He’s come a long way, this little guy, since his shelter days. Whatever he needed to overcome has been assisted with professional training, a whole lot of kindness and the freedom to be himself. Oh, and a good supply of tennis balls.  

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dogs in golf

The story of Lacey of Barnbougle Dunes, Lost Farm and Bougle Run is a tale of two dogs, three broken hearts, and how they healed each other. 

Course super Phil Hill’s great mate at both Launceston GC and then Barnbougle was a great guy, “a man’s man”, his black and white Border Collie, George. George was up for anything in the field yet charming enough to convince the kitchen staff every morning to give him a Schmacko. 

From the moment he landed with Phil, oddly enough via a cattery (but that’s another story), they were soul mates. “He was a real character, old George, and everyone, all the golfers, they all knew him. He was an absolute legend of a dog,” says Phil. 

When George passed away suddenly, Phil and wife Paula were devastated. “I was shattered. I still get emotional about it. And I didn’t want another dog.”.

Enter Lacey, used as a breeding dog and discarded at just 14 months. Paula persuaded Phil to adopt her. It wasn’t the easiest of starts for either though. Lacey was terrified of men and Paula had to put her in the van each morning so she could accompany Phil to the courses.

But now we are inseparable. When she hears the car keys rattle, she’s ready for work. She just loves being outside and goes with me across all three courses.” 

Where George was the rugged, handsome type, Lacey – aka The Ginger Ninja due to her chestnut and white coiffure – is more of a princess. This girl likes her pink squeaky toy, to sit at the local café and survey the world, and to mingle (gently) with any golfers. When it comes to the rough stuff, though, she’s all bark and no bite. Take the potoroo chasing. 

“She thinks she’s a hero and goes to chase them but if they don’t move, she just stops and freezes.” 

For Phil, the baton has been handed from George to Lacey and he now can’t imagine life without her. “I feel the same about both of them.”  

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The ‘ladies’ man’ of the super dogs is without a doubt Mr Ron O’Callaghan, not just because of human mum Gerri but because of his huge fan base with women. With his swoony brown eyes and gentle Golden Retriever nature, our man is quite the lad around the Royal Melbourne and Sandringham Golf Links courses. 

Ron was one of 11 pups but with a heart murmur, a crooked leg, severe overbite and a little under-developed, he was ‘the runt’ of the litter and not wanted by purchasers. Not so now. These days he’s a rock star.

“Everyone knows him and loves him,” says Gerri. 

Ron and Gerri live alongside the East Course of Royal Melbourne, where Gerri was foreman prior to taking the foreman’s position at Sandy, and his backyard is his stage. Players have been known to deliberately hit their ball to the side of the fairway close to his home just so they can say hello to him. And he, them. 

This is a guy who knew early how to work a room. When he was just 14 weeks old and Gerri was playing a pennant match at another course, she received a flurry of messages from the Royal girls with pictures of him being cradled not just by them but the spectators as well. He was in his element of course. 

To be handed his favourite toy by him is a sign of approval – and a highlight for adoring fans. 

Then there’s this: “There are two or three RM members that bake him doggy treats. On a Saturday, if I see them on the timesheet, we’ll go out as they’re coming through and say hello.”

No wonder he’s considered the club’s unofficial mascot. 

Unsurprisingly, he’s a hit on social media with a popular Instagram account goldy_ron and 135 friends on Facebook. He’ll be giving paw-tographs next. 

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dogs in golf

And then there’s Miss Queensland, the divine Trixie. This is a girl with a career in her sights, currently preparing for her goal of becoming a guide dog for Guide Dogs Australia. Trixie is under guidance herself with puppy carers, Palmer Colonial and Palmer Gold Coast super Mark Hauff and family.

The Hauffs decided during the pandemic to volunteer for a cause with community benefit which also suited their lifestyle. This fitted nicely.

So, Trixie joined the household at eight weeks of age. She is now 16 weeks and will remain with the family until she is around seven or eight months old. She attends guide dog training at Guide Dogs Queensland every fortnight and, in between, to broaden her experiences Trixie often goes where family members go. Swimming, supermarket, school runs, you name it… and she can sometimes be seen on the golf course after hours ‘assisting’ Mark with his tasks.

 

“She’ll sit beside me on the buggy, just observing, getting familiar with her environment, learning to be calm,” says Mark. 

One of the reasons she only goes at quiet times is so she will not encounter too many golfers as it’s important for her to learn not to engage, even with well-intentioned ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’. And, of course, touching a guide dog is not allowed when they’re working. So, when Trixie is ‘on the job’, she always wears her bright orange jacket. This tells humans she’s busy and Trixie herself learns to associate the jacket with work time.

For the Hauffs, having Trixie has been a revelation. “We didn’t know what we were in for, but it’s been just so rewarding and amazing to see that this dog has the ability to be trained and to want to help people. And we’re learning life skills as well.”

For more information or to make a Christmas donation to support Trixie and others like her, please head to www.guidedogs.com.au.

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ROYAL ADELAIDE’S DOG DAYS

Royal Adelaide GC has taken welcoming dogs further than most. The club has started hosting days on which members can bring their canine companions to play – and they have proved a resounding success. 

“It came about because one of our Captains had been to the UK and saw one there. He thought it was a pretty good idea, so after a little hesitancy, we gave it a go,” said general manager Andrew Gay. “It was a big success, even more than we anticipated.” 

The first was held in March 2019 and they’re now scheduled twice per year, in spring and autumn to take advantage of daylight saving. The most recent was held in October this year. Around 50 players are accommodated.

“There are no limits on how many dogs come. As long as they play nicely together, that’s all that matters.” 

super-dogs-golf

Not only does this welcome dogs, as the UK and other countries do, but it also welcomes families and newcomers to the game. “The kids and non-golfing family members can come and just have a putt or a hit if they want,” said Gay.

“There is no competition. The emphasis is all social – come, play as many as you like, have a bite to eat and a drink afterwards on the verandah. To that end, water bowls are provided for the dogs and there are extra posts for them to be attached while they and their humans rest up post-game.” 

It seems this could become more common as interest has been high from clubs around the country and on social media. 

Hopefully, soon, every dog will have his or her day. 

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First published in Golf Australia magazine December 2021

Photo credits: Golf Australia magazine

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