A cadre of goats will munch their way through four acres of dense brush at the Presidio Golf Course, allowing native grasses to flourish and making it easier to retrieve errant golf balls.
Between 250 and 300 Boer goats from California Grazing arrived at the golf course Tuesday afternoon, where they were herded to their job site by three border collies. Over the next two weeks, they will mow through thickets of blackberry and poison hemlock in a valley near the first hole and in a wetland area near the fourth hole, according to Dana Polk, spokeswoman for the Presidio Trust, which owns the golf course.
Golfers may see the goats while they're playing through, depending on how deep into the vegetation these "nature's lawnmowers" are working.
"These areas are very overgrown. They've never been manicured. They're impossible to access with lawnmowers," Polk said. The goats will not be on the course and are not expected to interfere with golf games.
As the goats eat the weeds, they will produce natural fertilizers and expose serpentine soil. Golf-course officials hope this will uncover long-buried seeds and allow native grasses and wildflowers to sprout.
At night, the goats will sleep on site, guarded by a human attendant and a herding dog, Polk said. Renting the goats will cost $5,000.
The goats' task is part of a larger effort to upgrade the Presidio Golf Course. Native grasses and plants will grow on the course's bunkers, giving them a wilder look evocative of traditional Scottish links courses, according to the Presidio Trust.
Creating these "fuzzy bunkers" "adds to the difficulty of the hole, and is a more natural look, Polk said. "We have a real mandate to use environmental methods, so whenever we can avoid using pesticides and fertilizers, we do. Allowing the bunkers to grow a bit allows us to cut back on pesticides."
Constructed in 1895, the Presidio Golf Course was opened to public play in 1995. It is entirely supported by the greens fees paid by golfers, Polk said.