Water buffalo trim golf course rough

LANG CO, Vietnam, 11 March 2019: One of Vietnam’s golf courses, Laguna Golf Lang Co, is staying at the top of its maintenance game by using the talents of a very special group of greenkeepers: a family of water buffalo.

As every superintendent worth his or her salt will tell you, prime conditioning is key to the success of every leading golf course.

In most cases it involves sophisticated hardware to keep layouts in good nick, but at Laguna Golf Lang Co the legwork involved in maintaining a spectacular Nick Faldo-designed track where golfers encounter tropical jungle, ocean sand dunes and rice paddies the task is shared between man, machinery and buffalo.

“We are pretty sure it’s a first in Asia to have animals performing such an important role on the golf course,” said, Laguna Golf Lang Co director of Golf, Adam Calver describing the work carried out by father Tu Phat, mother Chi Chi and their calf, Bao.

The buffaloes tend to four-hectares of rice fields that are part of the course’s rough corridors that contour the 3rd and 4th holes and reappear in the back nine between the 13th green, 14th tee and run alongside the 15th fairway.

In the early days of UK golf, it was a common occurrence for sheep and cattle to roam freely across fairways and greens taking a nibble at the long grass.

Courses in Asia though have been less willing to let animals trim grass and foliage stretches of rough – until now that is.

“We looked at various methods to increase the aesthetics of the rice paddies between the harvests as continually mowing the fields to maintain vast rice terraces consumes a large amount of labour,” adds Calver.  “The water buffalo act as bio-mowers while also protecting the traditional Vietnamese landscape.”

The bovine threesome help manage paddies by eating excess weeds and crops in the area that would otherwise require machinery and manpower to maintain.

The paddy though is not just for show. Harvested twice a year, it yields up to 20 tons of rice that are used to support the organic farm at Laguna Lang Co and donated to families and seniors in the area.

“We knew that having the holes weave through the rice fields would be a unique and memorable experience for golfers,” said Paul Jansen, a leading golf course architect who assisted Faldo with the design of the course.

“And also, there would be potential to give back to the community in a sustainable and regenerative fashion.

It could also appease some of the critics who say vast areas of land are dedicated to a sport that serves just a few hundred people per day.

The only downside for golfers might be the prospects of muddying their designer golf outfits when the ball plonks into the soft, gooey soil of a paddy field. Defiantly more hazardous than a sand bunker.