Early one morning I got a radio call from my boss. “Don,” he said, “Do you have your green repair tools with you?”
“I do. What do you need?”
“Come over here to number 4 green. I’ve got something I need you to repair.”
Enthusiastic, since I enjoy working on greens, I hurried across the golf course to hole number 4. When I saw it I immediately knew he hadn’t lied, but he didn’t tell the truth either. The something he wanted me to repair was approximately 400 hoof prints that deer made overnight. 400! There was hardly an area on the green where I could place a golf ball on undamaged grass.
I spent eight hours on my hands and knees lifting grass and roots, putting sand into the voids, then stitching the grass together to repair each hoof print. All the while I wondered what we could do to prevent this from happening again. The next day, as soon as the Arizona Game and Fish department opened, I was on the phone with a ranger.
“Hahaha! What you have there is a deer trail, and you put a putting green right in the middle of it,” He said.
“Well, since I can’t move the green, how can I get rid of the deer?” I asked.
“Tiger dung will do it. They won’t go near the smell of a predator.”
“Too bad golfers won’t go near it either. Is there any other option?”
“Well, there are sprays, but they are probably too smelly for golfers too,” he said.
“Listen,” I said, “Deer don’t like car headlights, right? Why is that?”
“Oh, now there’s an idea,” he said, “do you have any electricity by this putting green?”
“I’m pretty sure I do. The irrigation clocks are all wired, and I might be able to use them.”
“Okay,” he said, “here’s what you need to do. Set up enough flood lights to cover the green every night for two weeks. It has to be covered 100% with light or this won’t work. If your putting green is in the light, the deer will avoid the light. They’ll be forced to find a way around the green, perhaps changing the location of their trail.”
The most irritating thing about taking the initiative to solve a problem is I become the person who gets up a half hour earlier in the morning to remove the flood lights ahead of golfers, and then I stay in the evening until the last golfer has passed played the hole, so I can set up the flood lights for the night.
Put up the lights.
Take down the lights.
Seven days a week for two long weeks I lit this putting green hoping the lights worked well enough to divert the deer trail away from the green.
During the first few mornings I could see where the deer had nuzzled my flood light stands and nibbled on grass at the very edge of the green. At the end of the first week I didn’t see these signs any more. I continued every day for the second week, and saw no hoof prints on the green or the surrounds. My boss thought we were ready to go one night without the lights. The next morning we saw no damage. We tried two nights, without damage, and felt confident the deer run was changed and we could put the flood lights away.
About three weeks later my boss called me on the radio. “Do you have your green repair tools with you?”
“I do. What do you need?”
“Come over here to number 4 green.”
“That’s what you said when the deer ruined the green. Is this a joke?”
“No, I want you to see this.”
“Okay, I’m on my way.”
My stomach churned and my mind tried to deny what I saw. This type of wild animal drove a Jeep onto the green and did a donut before spinning the wheels on his way out into the wilderness. It took me days to repair it.