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This club is famous for... strange beasts on its fairways

This club is famous for… strange beasts on its fairways

Sometimes you need to pack an exotic wildlife guide in your golf bag
 

There are parts of the world where you stand a real risk of encountering a dangerous animal on the course. If you’re in South Africa it could be a crocodile, if you’re in Canada it could be a family of bears. If you’re in Australia it could be literally anything that moves – even frigging SHARKS.

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But you don’t expect a close encounter on the fairways of Brighton and Hove.

In 2009 pro golfer Ian Campbell spotted a mysterious creature strolling across the grass during a round at the Sussex course.

‘It walked very slowly across the course’
Speaking at the time, he said: “It was about 7pm, I was facing south towards the sea, when I spotted something come out of the bushes about 120 yards away. It walked very slowly across the course.”
Sounds to me like your typical club member after another duff drive.
However, Campbell went on to say the creature resembled a big black cat (but it wasn’t a cat), about the size of a Border Collie (but it wasn’t a Border Collie).
Perhaps it was a giant guinea pig?
No, seriously…

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That’s a capybara, the world’s largest rodent, and it was filmed running around North Weald near Harlow, where fearful golfers mistook it for a wild boar or a creature “like a cross between a beaver and a bear”.
Despite potentially growing to more than 4ft in length and possessing some pretty gnarly gnashers, the creature was harmless and when pressed a local petty zoo took the opportunity to confess that it was “missing a capybara”.

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“Don’t worry, I’ll find him”


Admittedly, a giant guinea pig poses a much less frightening prospect than a black panther on the loose, unless you happen to own a giant carrot farm.

Oh and that panther was never found – instead sightings have continued throughout the years, including the discovery of a deer carcass that looked like it had become the dinner of a large predator.
What you want is for the mysterious and dangerous creature to be captured, or as a last resort killed. That’s what happened at Barkway Park in Royston, where a giant runaway terror bird possessing claws the Daily Mail claimed could disembowel a man was successfully dispatched by gamekeeper Stuart Howe.
So far, so good. Mysterious beast terrorises community. Lone hero rises to the occasion and takes out beast with terrifying claws.
The preconception…

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The reality…

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Kinda feel bad now don’t you?

And then you learn that the bird was called Chris.
The bird, a South American rhea, was owned by former Page Three model and show jumper Jo Clark, who was said to be heartbroken at the loss of her beloved pet.

“The golfers here sort of adopted it and used to enjoy seeing it grazing near the course. We were quite fond of the bird. It was never a particular nuisance and kept well away from golfers,” lamented club captain Mike Rodgers.

The members at golfway had adopted the bird, and it was given the name after Chris Rhea. Unfortunately, the bird was on the Road to Hell – or police claimed it would have been, had it not been caught.

Insp Paul David of Hertfordshire Police said: “I am amazed it survived this long to be honest. It would have been a real problem if it had wandered into the road and posed a traffic hazard.”

If ever David Attenborough wanted a reason to take up golf, I think we’ve found it. Never mind heading all over the world to discover weird and wonderful creatures – you never know what you’re going to spot on Britain’s courses.

Click here for the full ‘This Club Is Famous For’ archive

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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