October 18, 2002
Migrating geese are among the thousands of visitors that literally flock to the Cape Region during the fall.
While the sight of these majestic waterfowl is often stirring, their presence is not necessarily a happy occurrence, especially on a golf course.
The geese enjoy the food they can easily find among the fairways and rough.
It’s what the geese leave behind after they’re done eating that’s the problem.
There are few things less desirable than hearing a golf ball landing with a slightly wet SPLURF, or if nasty stuff splashes onto one’s clothes while hitting out of the rough.
Cape Region golf course superintendents use a variety of methods to discourage the geese from hanging around.
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is a very short flight from The Rookery Golf Course outside Milton, where Chris Adkins oversees course maintenance. “We made sure that the plants we put near the edges of our ponds grow high enough to scare off the geese. With the Refuge being so near, we decided to try this method. “
Adkins explained that the geese prefer to land in the ponds, and then walk up to the turf to feed. If they can’t see through the pond-side plants, however, the geese can’t be sure there aren’t any predators hidden in the high stuff.
“The geese won’t walk through there. They like clean lines of sight. I know that the trimmed, clean look along pond edges is what a lot of other clubs do, but growing the plants high works for us. That’s all I had to do,” Adkins said.
Some enterprising companies have nonetheless tried to sell Adkins on the benefits of other methods. “Just last week, for example, a salesman tried to sell me their Border Collie service. They bring the dogs to the course to harass the geese. I know some courses in the DC area bought their own dogs and trained them for this,” Adkins said.
Actually, two Cape Region dogs are already on the job.
Scot Anderson, superintendent of Sussex Pines Country Club near Georgetown, swears by Boomer, his nine-year-old golden retriever. “He’s had no formal training, but he does a great job,” Anderson laughed. “We obtained all the permits to try other methods, such as egg handling and trapping, but lately we really haven’t had to do anything but use my dog.”
“Boomer rides along with me in a golf cart. As soon as the geese see him, they take off. He doesn’t like the geese, and they don’t like him. Years ago we had a big problem, with 100-200 geese on the course. It’s just not a big deal, now.”
Anderson says he also uses some unusual high-tech equipment to make Boomer even more effective: “When the geese are in a pond, Boomer jumps in the water and swims toward them. Then I put a little remote control boat in the water, and kind of herd the geese with the boat toward Boomer. The geese leave the pond and then just take off. The combination works excellent.”
Ed Brown, head golf course superintendent at Rehoboth Beach Country Club, also combines his dog’s work with something extra. “My dog harasses them, but the geese swim faster than he can, so I also use what’s called a pyrotechnic gun. It’s a .22 pistol that shoots little fireworks. One kind makes a big bang, and the other is a screamer.”
“I’ve used the gun about four or five times, and it worked the best, but I’m a little bit more lenient about the geese being here during the winter than during the summer. They mainly use the golf course as their roost. But every so often I have to go after them.”
Of course, at some locations in the Cape Region there are other, extremely effective ways to do something permanent about geese.
On a golf course, however, the only reason to use a shotgun is to start a tournament.