Before I had ever tried it, I never thought of golf as a dangerous sport. Unknown to the average person, hazards abound for even the everyday golfer. Whether it be from stray balls (fore!), careless cart drivers, imprudent practice swings, or other perilous pitfalls, golfers always need to be on their toes. However, in some locations golfers face an even larger threat; animals wander out of the wilderness onto the well-groomed links. Many golfers are aware of the more common animal aggressors, such as alligators in the South, moose and elk in the Northwest, and other indigenous invaders elsewhere. Unfamiliar to most, however, is the branta canadensis, or American goose and perhaps the largest threat facing today’s golfer. While attacks are still relatively rare, golfers must be aware of this constantly looming threat. Fortunately, I have encountered these wild beasts first hand and can now educate the unaware.
My encounter began years ago, when my father took me out one evening to play the front nine at the nearby course. It was late August, so the sun was setting earlier and getting dark sooner. However, being from Eastern Washington, the nights were still hot and on this night I could feel a nice strong, warm breeze blowing up against me. As for my game, it was the same as usual (frustrating), but I was still able to enjoy myself as the twilight fell over the course. The first four holes went by without complication, but on the fifth there was a large flock of geese resting on the fairway, near the large water hazard. Initially, the unwanted waterfowl seemed to pose no imminent threat so we both teed off in their direction. I hit a perfect hook, sweeping off in the direction of the water, where the goose concentration was highest. My dad, conversely, sliced one left. The geese noticed this, aware of the ancient war strategy: divide and conquer. Unwittingly, we both set off in different directions while the geese prepared for war.
As I approached my ball I began to notice one goose acting especially strange. It began as staring and head bobbing, but quickly escalated into hissing. Because I had been so preoccupied with this one, I failed to notice that I had become surrounded; the savages had encircled me. The one, whom I have named Goliath, stood in the center with me and I quickly understood what was happening. The flock had sent their best and strongest against me to assert dominance over the water hole. As Goliath continued to approach, I hoped a stare down would be enough to resolve this territorial dispute, but his demeanor became only more intense. I realized that diplomacy was no longer an option and pulled out my pitching wedge. The beast stopped right in front of me for a moment, with his ugly mouth gaping and a nasty hiss coming out. Then he spread his wings, which spanned a slightly terrifying six feet, in the most threatening pose a goose can form, and I knew the time for any sort peaceful resolution had passed. There was a slight silent pause where Goliath and I simply stared, sizing the other up. I was motionless, armed with my blunt club and unwilling to draw first blood. Then in one quick and fluid motion, the brute leaped nearly six feet in the air so his body was level with my head. Before the attack could continue I delivered two thunderous body shots with the head of my club. In this motion, I had felled Goliath and he dropped to the ground; his hiss now sounded like the wheezing of a old VW bus. I was victorious and while basking in my glory, I looked around and saw the other geese beginning to lose interest. The alpha male had achieved dominance over his kingdom and I was able to hit my next shot in peace. As for my dad, he was completely unaware of the events that had transpired, leaving no eye witnesses to verify my story. However, I strongly urge the everyday duffers and seasoned pros alike to give credence to my account. The branta canadensis is not the cuddly critter portrayed by many but a formidable enemy. Take caution and beware, they are always looking to jump the next unsuspecting divot driver.