Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hawktree Hauls in Goats to Deal with Weeds

From Bismarck, North Dakota NBC affiliate KFYR.  Entire story included below and here.

  Hawktree golf course north of Bismarck is a nationally ranked public course. So, while it`s normally known for its beauty, right now it`s dealing with a pesky problem.

The course staff is bringing in some outside help to clear out noxious weeds. This season, workers brought in five goats to eat up some of the wild growth.

Any golfer who`s played Hawktree will tell you it`s an unforgiving course.

"If you make a mistake, it usually costs you double. You`ve got to play straight to play this course," said Bill Bragg, golfer.

Bragg is returning to the area from Meadville, Pa. The 18 holes, which lie north of Bismarck, are full of native grasses and noxious weeds. So, this spring, the Hawktree golf course superintendent, Eric Stromstad, pitched the idea to the board to bring in a bit of the farm yard to munch away at problematic weeds.

"I was pretty concerned that they thought I might`ve lost my marbles with this whole idea, so I kind of introduced it slowly and made sure I had some good research on it and that it`d be a successful venture for Hawktree," said Stromstad.

The board said OK. So, Stromstad brought in two goats at the start of the season.

Golfer Suzana Haertzen said: "I think that`s a great idea. I`d much rather see a goat thinning out the weeds than a noisy lawn mower driving by me."

Haertzen is visiting the area from Flagstaff, Ariz. The golfers have taken to the goats so well, Stromstad added three more. In the past few weeks, they`ve become the 16th hole`s unofficial petting zoo.

"After you see them they get acclimated to people. They`re friendly, people stop by, they feed them, they talk to them," said Hawktree head golf pro Chuck Ruppert. "They want to pet them, so it`s kind of been a topic of conversation at Hawktree."

And Stromstad says the hungry goats are doing their job well. So far, they`ve decimated patches of leafy spurge and sweet clover.

"They`ll strip down the leaves and they`ll leave the stemming material of the plant and they just grind up everything really good. There`s not much foliage passed through their system," said Stromstad.

And, Stromstad says once the goats finish on hole 16, there will be plenty of other trouble spots to move them.

"They won`t go hungry," said Bragg.

Stromstad says while he got the idea from courses in Ireland, Hawktree isn`t the first course in the U.S. to try goats. He says courses in both Ohio and Florida have been using the idea as well.

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