By R.J. Smiley
Change has been the only constant since Scottish shepherds started whacking round stones with their shepherd’s crooks. Clubs, balls, courses, rules and yes, even caddies continue to change over time.
Change! Imagine playing golf on a real cattle ranch in the Wild West. No not Texas or Oklahoma; envision playing golf on a working ranch in the mountain meadows of eastern Oregon. Scott Campbell, the entrepreneurial owner of The Retreat & Links at Silvies Valley Ranch blended the spirit of Wild West cattle and goat ranch with the modern day golf resort and spa.
In May of 2018, Silvies Valley Ranch, a historic (since 1883) 140,000 acre cattle ranch, in Silvies, Oregon began sharing the everyday ranch life with an undiscovered slice of luxury and relaxation to traveling golfers. The authentic and fully operational western ranch has added all the amenities of a modern resort. The full-service resort portion of the ranch includes lodging, several dining options, many unique eco-outdoor experiences, spa and four golf courses. The ranch boasts a private airstrip for fly-in golf guests.
The courses named, Craddock and Hankins, were designed by Dan Hixson to be played clockwise one day and counterclockwise the next. The reverse creation gives golfers a completely different looks at the western vistas – plus a glimpse at Hixson’s genius. The creative owners even included a beautiful par-3 meadow course called Chief Egan.
But the most unique feature at Silvies Valley Ranch is the new 7-hole course that will be opening on July 10th. McVeigh’s Gauntlet is a series of exceptional par-3 and par-4 holes created to replicate fantasy golf. (This golf course is something Bud Chapman might create.) The course includes a bonus hole, a putting only par-2.
The walk-only course was artistically sculpted into a series of razorback ridges that were too steep for holes on a regulation course and terrain much too difficult for golf carts. “Our goats could be trained as caddies,” thought Campbell. Five Silvies Ranch natives were selected to work as caddies for guests of the ranch. The five goats were hand picked from the 2,600 American Range Goats, raised for meat, at Silvies Valley Ranch.
The original idea at Silvies Valley Ranch was to train the goats to be pack animals for hikers who visited the ranch. As the goats were being trained, the idea of caddie/goats was developed. The caddie/goats have been specially trained to double as caddies. Each caddie/goat has a name (Bruce LaGoat and Roundabout LaDoe to name two) and their own backpack specially designed to carry two golf bags. Each of the golf bags will accommodate six clubs for each golfer along with three beverages, balls, tees and even some peanuts for the goat. (Goats love peanuts; one of the goats is named Peanut LaGoat.) To play McVeigh’s Gauntlet, ranch guests are asked to make a $77 contribution to one of three named charities.
The local joke, “The goats asked for a better career opportunity, but they knew they were working in a dead end job!”
Over the decades a variety of animals have been used as caddies and/or transportation for golfers.
In the early days of modern golf, ponies were used to transport golfers and their clubs around the links. Some ponies pulled small carts in a zigzag pattern as golfers chased the feathery and gutta-percha balls. Imagine what would happen today if a golfer showed up with a horse drawn cart to play one of the immaculately groomed golf courses. It would take a lot of sand to fill the hoof prints and who would get the messy job of cleaning up after the horse?
Over time, dogs have been used in a variety of ways to transport golf clubs for the golfing masters. There are pictures of golfers who created a lightweight carriage, similar to a sulky, to transport golfers and clubs. These sulkies, with wide wheelbases, were perfect for a large well-trained dog. Other dog caddie ideas were to create a backpack, similar to the goat backpack, to carry golfer’s clubs. This idea added new meaning to man’s best friend. If they could only read greens.
Pictures were also found of elephants, lamas and even pigs used as caddies. As golf continues to change, will robots, who can read greens, be the next generation of caddies?