Foxed by tiger in the woods, snake in the grass

This is the first time that tigers have been sighted at such close quarters near a golf course in this part of the world, although bisons are known to range freely, both in the Kodaikanal and Coonoor golf clubs.
(inset) Bhama Devi Ravi
(inset) Bhama Devi Ravi

CHENNAI: TIGER and woods are part of every golfer’s vocabulary. Tiger because of his phenomenal prowess , while woods is where the amateur golfer’s game often is. However, it was a real tiger – the original one from the cat family – near a golf course that broke the internet recently.

On November 3, a number of golfers shared/received videos of a tiger emerging from behind a pair of bushes and looking into the camera, before wandering off towards its kill, an adult cow. This is the first time that tigers have been sighted at such close quarters near a golf course in this part of the world, although bisons are known to range freely, both in the Kodaikanal and Coonoor golf clubs.

‘Fore’ caddys

The presence of a fore caddy – whose job is to spot the ball – was once part of the sport. Today, many a potential man-animal conflict is avoided by spotters of wildlife who immediately send out warnings. I recall at least three occasions in Coonoor when halfway through the round, bison alert was given by caddies sitting far away. There are only two things a golfer can do: avoid that particular hole near which the bison is foraging or wait for it to leave – which could take hours.

Jackal and swing

Then there are some courses where the wildlife will ignore you as if to say, ‘get on with your game’. When I played at the Tollygunge Golf Club a couple of years ago, I was warned by local players to be on the lookout for jackals. While cats were hidden in cosy tree trunk corners, packs of jackal were freely walking across the course.

In the USA, alligators are known to make golf courses their homes, while monitor lizards of various sizes stroll through courses in the Far East. Golfers avoid doing anything that could trigger unwanted reaction from these animals. “Dangerous Animal Relief” is available under Golf Rule 16.2, ensuring all are safe and the game can proceed.

Every golfer teeing up on a course on a hill station or one situated near urban forests is fully aware of the fact that the course belongs to animals first, then their irons and last, but not least, on their shoulder turn. If all the aforementioned are in alignment, then who knows, they make a birdie or two or four.

Winged visitors

Birds there are aplenty on any golf course. The Madras Gymkhana Golf Annexe is home to the Yellow wattle Lapwing and has been adopted by the golf club as its logo. The Lapwing lays its eggs on a fairly easy to forage nest, hence during the nesting season, golfers and caddies watch out for eggs and offer protection.

At the Cosmo TNGF, on any given day, around noon, you will find dozens of kites landing on the fairway, either to spread their wings or forage. A few simply roost in the branch of the trees lining the fairways. At around 6 pm, companies of parrots will set up a chatter, like a background score, as one tees off from Hole 2. Hundreds of them nest in the tree looming large over that tee box.

Sssssnake

Occasionally, there are safari moments for a golfer – when Dr Raghavan went up to the green on the old Hole 11 to mark his ball, he found a baby cobra poised over it. Recently, more snakes were spotted in the tree trunk near the old Tee 10 by caddies, well in time. Lastly, there is always the crow and the golf ball story: crows pecking at worms in fairway one moment and the next moment lifting and flying away with your golf ball to their nests. Some wags say the crows treat fairways as the Hamleys store for their chicks. A behaviour immortalised by the Bangalore Golf Club. Its logo is a crow with the golf ball in its beak.

(The writer is the Lady Captain at Cosmo TNGF)

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