Goat groundskeepers get golf course tidy in Central Iowa

Of all the challenges that golf presents, avoiding a herd of goats with your tee shot is typically not one. But golfers who played The Harvester Golf Club northeast of the Des Moines metro this summer have experienced that unique hazard.

With the assistance of Goats On The Go, a targeted grazing company based in Ames, The Harvester applied 75 goats to the rough areas of the course, targeting invasive brush and grasses like reed canary grass. The plants were choking areas of the course that were intended to be playable.

“The course was designed to have fine fescue roughs that players could hit their balls out of,” said course superintendent, Joel Randall, “but those areas have started to fill in with other vegetation.” The goats munch away at the roughs, thinning the vegetation to keep it neither too rough nor closely-cropped, all without chemical sprays and mowing. They’ve also been employed to attack brush thickets at the edges of the course.

“Goats are amazing creatures,” says Aaron Steele, co-owner of Goats On The Go.  “They like to eat weeds and brush more than turf grasses, which make them ideal for a golf course, and they can save the course a lot of money by cutting the use of chemicals.”

The goats are concentrated in areas with the biggest vegetation problems through the use of portable electric fencing and a solar power source. They are rotated around the course in a couple of different groups, staying in any one location only a few days at a time. “We weren’t sure how many goats it would take, but after our success with them this summer we’d like to have even more,” says Randall.

Goats On The Go, which launched in 2012, sourced the goats for The Harvester, which owns them. It also trained the golf course staff to manage the herd and provided insight on vegetation control and goat care throughout the first season of the grazing experiment. “This was a new role for us,” said Steele. “We typically rent our own goats to customers and manage the grazing project for them. But this made perfect sense for The Harvester, since it is such a big property which will need goats year after year. We see so much value in using goats for vegetation control that we’ll help a customer in any way we can.”

So what do golfers think of the new groundskeepers? “They really seem to like them. They’ll hit their shots and then stand around and watch the goats,” Randall said. “It’s really peaceful.”

That’s great for the ambiance, but not great for the pace of play. Golfers are reminded that etiquette demands goat gawkers let others play through.



Aaron Steele, Co-owner