Alternative Brush Management at Pasatiempo

Pasatiempo is a very interesting and unique property. The total area of the site is approximately 120 acres, with 100 acres of that being devoted to the golf course, along with 11 acres of natural canyons. Throughout the property we maintain a strict focus on the environment, and are constantly looking for ways to minimize our inputs.

One major project that we currently have going on is the removal of invasive plant species throughout the 11 acres of canyons that wind through the back nine holes. Due to their rugged and natural look, these canyons were a major design feature in 1929 when Alister MacKenzie originally designed the course, but over time they had become softened by the large amounts of underbrush that had moved in. Because of our desire to limit the use of pesticides, we had been searching for an alternative solution to the increasing encroachment of unwanted plants such as Pampas Grass, Acacia, Gorse, English Ivy, and Poison Oak. The unique solution that we came to was a brush goat company out of Santa Barbara, California called Brush-Goats-4-Hire.

I will admit, some people did think we were crazy when we brought up the idea of having 175 goats on the golf course, but after looking at the cost analysis between having the goats clear the property or our staff; it became a pretty easy decision. After running the numbers we found that it would cost us $105,000 and would take approximately four years to have our staff do the same work that we could have the goats do for $12,500 and it would only take 10 weeks! Below you can see some of the before and after pictures from the project.

The infrastructure involved in the project includes a solar powered electric fence which is set up by the goat company about a week prior to the arrival of the goats. There are also two large Anatolian dogs that are kept inside the fence to protect the goats. The impact of both the fence and dogs has been limited, with only a couple of people getting a little shock from the fence, and occasional barking from the dogs when someone or something gets too close to the goats. The goats were brought in by trailer in two trips from Santa Barbara, and are moved throughout the property with the use of a Border collie named Arthur.

The process on our end has been pretty low-impact. Brush Goats 4 Hire keeps someone in the area to tend to the herd, and check fences every day. Once the goats clear everything they can reach, our staff has been going in and cutting any of the unwanted plants that remain, thereby allowing the goats to eat that as well. At this point we are planning to bring the goats back again next year to follow up with any re-growth, but this process will be much less of an issue considering that the majority of the area will already be clear.

Overall the goats have been very well received by our members, the homeowners, as well as the general public who have all been very interested to see the progress. We have also gotten some very positive publicity from the project with media outlets such as Golf World, Golf Digest, TurfNet, Golfweek, The United States Golf Association, as well as local and regional newspapers all covering the story. In the end we view the project as a success, and would recommend this to anyone who is looking for an environmentally friendly way to clear large areas of invasive plant species.

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