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Jackson Hole golf course: Where the buffalo roam

By John Strege

How do you play through a herd of bison? The answer should be obvious. You don’t. You carefully play around it. Or wait.

It is not an obstacle with which most of the country has to concern itself, but bison on the golf course in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is an annual issue, and occasionally a problem.

bison.jpg
(Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club)

The course at the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club is on the migratory path for bison, but usually only a few at a time come through this time of year. Recently, a herd numbering upwards of 40 came through.

“It is quite a site to see bison roaming near and sometimes through the course,” Guy Evans, the general manager of Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club, said in an email. “However, buffalo are dangerous and wild animals. We suggest all guests keep a safe distance.”

Efforts are made to move them away from the course, which is adjacent to Grand Teton National Park. “We do our best to get them out of play, or haze the bison into areas where they won’t be an issue with the golfers,” assistant superintendent Jeff Jenson told the Jackson Hole Daily. “The damage they can do to the greens is the main maintenance headache for us.”

Hazing, as defined by the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, “is a process where you disturb the animal's sense of security to such an extent that it decides to move on.” Turning on the sprinklers sometimes works.

Mark Gocke, a spokesman with Wyoming Game and Fish Department, told the newspaper that three hazing operations had taken place at the golf course this year. “Bison tend to present a little more of a threat, so we try to keep them not only out of Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis, but away from the homes there for human safety,” he said.

If the bison venture onto a green, they can do significant damage. “It’s basically their weight and hoofs,” Jackson Hole pro Kevin Kohlasch said. “If they’re walking on the greens, they’re leaving big holes.”

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