Greenkeeping Water Buffalo helping Nick Faldo!

Love this story which popped into my in box today:

Lang Co, Hue, Vietnam: One of Vietnam’s leading golf layouts, Laguna Golf Lăng Cô, now a Signature design by six-time Major champion, Sir Nick Faldo, is staying at the top of its maintenance game by employing the talents of a very special group of greenkeepers: a family of water buffalo.

The bovine threesome act as bio-mowers, while also protecting the traditional Vietnamese landscape, helping to manage rice paddies by eating excess weeds and crops in the area that would otherwise require machinery and manpower to maintain.

The father, called Tu Phat, leads the charge in attending to the four hectares of rice fields located in the middle of the golf course, alongside the mother Chi Chi of their calf, Bao.  The rice paddies contour the 3rd and 4th holes and reappear in the back nine between the 13th green, 14th tee and run alongside the 15th fairway.

With prime conditioning key to the success of every leading golf course, dedicated greenkeeping staff at top clubs around the world deploy sophisticated hardware and a variety of innovative techniques to keep their layouts in world-class nick.  Yet things are different at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô, where golfers encounter tropical jungle, ocean sand dunes, and rice paddies, with the maintenance shared between man, machinery and beast.

“We are pretty sure it’s a first in this part of the world to have animals performing such an important role on the golf course,” said Adam Calver, Director of Golf at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô, of the work carried out by the water buffalo.

“In the early days of golf, when courses were mostly laid out on public land it was not uncommon for sheep and cattle to roam freely across fairways and greens.  Even today at some courses, notably the wilder links clubs in remote regions of Scotland and Ireland, livestock play their party in trimming turf and thinning out rough.  But, until now, courses in Asia though have been less willing to let animals in on the greenkeeping act, so we’re pretty unique in that sense.”

Even on the quietest days, the water buffalo are always out wading through the rice paddies and performing their duties.

“We looked at various methods to increase the aesthetics of the rice paddies between the harvests as continually mowing the fields to maintain vast rice terraces can consume a large amount of labour,” adds Calver. 

Even the rice paddies are not just for show. Harvested twice a year, they yield up to 20 tons of rice that are used to support the organic farm at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô and donated to families and seniors in the area.

Talking about the rice paddies, Sir Nick Faldo, said: “We knew that having the holes weave through the rice fields would be a unique and memorable experience for golfers.  And there would be potential to give back to the community in a sustainable and regenerative fashion.

Hissy fits on the course!!


I am not a big fan of gardening, so whenever I want a hole digging in the back lawn I just call for Sergio Garcia or Bryson deChambeau to come round and then I simply get them angry.

Without wishing to trivialise the recent hissy fits of two of the world’s finest golfers, there is something slightly comical about watching the sport’s great champions losing their rag over a duffed chip shot. It is kind of reassuring.

The next time that golf’s endless frustrations lead me to a place where I just want to break down and cry, I will be consoled by the vision of a multi-millionaire thrashing away at a sandpit like Basil Fawlty. This game gets you like that.

One of the many unique sporting contradictions of golf is that it is a very emotional game best played without any visible signs of emotion at all.

The etiquette of the sport demands a quiet respect for good grace and manners. That is why there has been such an outcry over the recent headline tantrums, even though they were of the kind that are routinely tolerated and filed under ‘passion’ on a football field.

Golf’s most iconic player of the modern era was serially silent at his best. When Tiger Woods was in the zone, only an earthquake could break his surly concentration. An anguished swear word might occasionally follow an errant drive, a violent fist pump would celebrate a clutch putt, but Tiger’s magnetic charisma was built more by the extraordinary shots that he hit than any real engagement with his fans.

It was back in 2012 that Bubba Watson first encouraged the Ryder Cup galleries to scream and shout during his opening tee shot. It has hardly caught on as a golfing tradition. I have been known to stare in the direction of innocent dog walkers 200 metres away if they should dare to summon their hound while I am addressing the ball. Golf is a game of concentration. Quiet please.

It is because we are concentrating so hard that our annoyance is so vexed when we manage to lose that concentration during the split second between starting and completing our swing. The only thing worse than a bad shot is a bad shot that I instantly know the cause of. And that cause is usually me, not the Labrador owner!

We all do try to keep our simmering rage under wraps at that demoralising moment when the divot flies further than the ball. Many players bark out their own name in the same scolding tone their mothers used to find when they were telling them off for a spill from their high chair.

We attempt to lock down our emotions because we know that very soon we will be standing over the same ball again trying to make the kind of slow, rhythmic sweep at it that only a composed and focussed body and mind can deliver. It is true to say that the most difficult six inches on the golf course are the ones between our ears.

Professionals like Sergio and Bryson pay significant slices of their small fortunes to psychologists in the hope of winning golf’s mind games. Both players have picked up hefty cheques since their outbursts. An eminent sports shrink may even conclude that they have somehow benefitted from letting off steam.

The trick is finding a way to relieve the immediate aggravation of chunking a wedge with an efficient but contained show of self-punishment, and then moving on to the recovery shot with all demons exorcised.

So, I am proposing a new Miss Designer Golf range of hair shirts and sackcloth skorts. These can be worn for one hole after a particularly careless shot by way of teaching ourselves a lesson and releasing our tensions without causing damage to equipment or course architecture.

Available in men’s sizes, Sergio.         








Read my latest blog for Lady Golfer Magazine

New Golf Rules! Esp 10.2b(4)!! If it wasn’t an ass, the law was made to look a bit of a lame donkey in a sport of thoroughbreds.

Some of my golfing heroes are not happy. Justin Thomas, Eddie Pepperell, Richie Ramsay, not happy at all. At least not according to their twitter feeds, where it is clear they are all up in arms about the penalties handed out to a couple of their fellow professionals for getting their caddies to line up shots.

Li Haotong left Dubai E100k lighter as a result of the 2-shot hit he took for the split second his trusty bagman lingered behind him to offer a second opinion on his final putt. Then, Denny McCarthy had 2 strokes added to his total after his caddie took a rear view of his practice swings for a shot to the 15th green in Phoenix.

Both were cruelly marginal calls. The precise letter of the new laws may have given the Tour police just about enough licence to hand out tickets but they were the kind of judgments a good barrister would have appealed with relish.

If it wasn’t an ass, the law was made to look a bit of a lame donkey in a sport of thoroughbreds.

So why was I not as outraged by these decisions as so many golfers on social media? Why did my eyes begin to glaze over when I started to read the small print of Rule 10.2b(4)? Maybe McCarthy fell asleep halfway through the rules briefing too.

The difference between Li, McCarthy and me – well, one of the differences – is that if anyone stands behind me from the very moment I first take a club out of the bag, I brusquely invite them to retake their stance in a neighbouring county.

Caddies and I have an uneasy relationship at best. Funnily enough, they always cost me quite a bit of money too. In fees! The returns on my investment in places as far apart as Thailand, South Africa and St Andrews have been mixed. I usually end up blaming them more than praising them. I prefer to misread my putts alone.

In both of the headline cases of the last few days, the caddies’ contributions to the incidents appear to me to have slowed their men down more than anything. At my level of the game, pace of play is the real stuff of Twitter rants.

I can think of no other sport in which the participants stick to the rules anything like as strictly as golfers. And yet the professional players that I admire so much for their skill and power are the first ones to push the spirit of the rules to the limits.

When Brooks Koepka’s ball briefly lost its way around a Saudi desert last week, he felt entitled to recruit half-a-dozen passers-by to move a boulder the size of Fred Flintstone’s house rather than take a penalty drop.

The rules didn’t say the boulder was a loose impediment, but they didn’t say it wasn’t. So Koepka stopped the tournament to get his odd job men in to test its looseness.

It turned out to be even looser than Tiger Woods’ even bigger boulder in Phoenix all those years ago. That one was so large it was visible from space. They had to evacuate tourists taking photographs from the summit before an army of fans managed to move the inconvenient obstruction to his next million.

It took forever.

Guys, the planet is a loose impediment in the universal scheme of things but you can’t move it just because you’ve hit a duck hook.

There is a wall of timber sleepers protecting the front of the 16th green at our club. It has been sturdily constructed to force an aerial approach shot but if a crack team of building workers began to wrap their Samson hands around the wooden stakes, I feel sure they could loosen them sufficiently to clear my way to play a bump and run next time I’m stymied.

I’m just not sure that the old boys I roll up with would be happy to wait for John Paramor to buggy out from wherever he happens to be to make a ruling in my favour.

The essence of the new revisions has been to simplify and speed up play. They have removed a number of nonsenses. No more need for David Attenborough to be summoned to identify the scrapings of a burrowing animal, no more Red Indian trackers required to distinguish footprints from ball marks. Once everybody has finished debating the Brexit-like complexity of whether or not to leave the flag in, we can all get round in the time it takes Bryson DeChambeau to work out if the Moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter is aligned with Uranus.

Ah Bryson! I’m sorry but he would get a hefty kick up that very planet if he started measuring air density and trajectory in our Sunday morning meeting of minds. No grip it and rip it for him. DeChambeau selects it, then checks it, then inspects it, then dissects it, then reflects it, then projects it, then corrects it, then perfects it, then and only then connects with it.

He has tried to justify his endless scientific theorising by pointing out that he earns his living on the golf course. My taxi driver earns his living on the road but I wouldn’t take too kindly to him delaying my commute to the station in order to assess tarmac texture on tyre tread every time the lights turn green.

Factor a few fines into Bryson’s calculations and see if he still does the math quite so conscientiously.

Li seems to be as good a man as he is a player. He took his punishment without complaint and has come back stronger. McCarthy has pretty much admitted that he didn’t read the T’s and C’s carefully enough. As golfers we are constantly humbled by this glorious game and that humility appears to exist in the respect the best players show to the vagaries of the rules.

Sergio Garcia got a red card this weekend but golf doesn’t need sin bins just yet.

The only request I would make to Bryson and co on behalf of those of us that don’t earn our livings from golf is to respect the reasons for the rules as readily as the text. I’m no longer of an impressionable age but I do try to watch and learn from the best. The pros not only set the bar, they set the standards and the example.

Unfortunately, they set the pace for some weekend hackers too.

Li and McCarthy may have been nabbed on technicalities but the whole idea behind the R and A reforms is to cut down on the stoppages and get on with the golfing. There are always some early casualty scapegoats when rules are revised. It’s a price worth paying for speedier, simpler golf.

My take on the new 2019 Golf Rules

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