My yard consists of a couple of acres, made up predominately of what I believe to be Norway Spruce. There are a few “lanes” between these trees that can be used to practice full swing iron shots. Throughout the 7 or 8 months of the year when there’s no snow on the ground, I will go out almost nightly and work on my game. I’ll hit a dozen or so shots, go out and collect the balls, then hit them again. I don’t always hit my target (no shit, I have a 27hi), so there’ll be a few lost per night, but not at a rate where they can’t be replenished by those found on the course. At the end of the night, the balls were always left on the ground for the next night. I’ve been doing this for years.
While these collection consist exclusively of free balls, they are still of value. So when these piles began to disappear this summer, it became a minor concern…. and a bit of a mystery.
Were the neighborhood kids coming into my yard and swiping them? Crows flying off with them? Maybe senility had finally reached the point where I’d forgotten exactly where I’d left them the night before.
I started to leave them a bit closer to the house and making a point of remembering the exact spot. Still, no golf balls the next night. This all but ruled out the neighbor kids and senility as possibilities. When placed in a mesh bag, the balls would remain. Left on their own, they’d disappear.
I assumed some sort of wildlife was to blame. But which? We have porcupines, skunks, weasels, aforementioned crows… I thought about setting up a game camera, but decided against it. I finally just accepted it as one of those mysteries we experience in life not worth the effort to figure out the “why” or “where”. - along the lines of missing socks. They were free golf balls, after all. From that point on, I'd just put them in a mesh bag and call it good.
At some point this fall, I started noticing balls embedded into the ground. No mystery here. I’d simply run them over with the lawn mower tires and pushed them into the soft soil. But when it became more of an occurrence and long after the mowing season had ended, it finally clicked.
I mentioned my yard is made up of Spruce trees. The most common vermin in the yard are red squirrels, no doubt because of the endless supply of food. As wild animals go, most squirrel species, such as gray squirrels or fox squirrels. are ok to have around. They might go after bird feeders, or become a bit too comfortable around humans dumb enough to “tame” them, but for the most part, harmless. Red squirrels are different. They have no problem chewing threw through human structures, then nesting and/or storing food within. They can be as destructive as they are industrious.They collect and bury food sources intended to get them through the winter. In my yard, that consists of the seeds of spruce pine cones, maple nuts, acorns, walnuts, etc. And beginning this year, apparently golf balls.
After a particularly hard rain a week or so back, I noticed the tops of a few golf balls exposed, I brushed away the loose dirt and pine needles in the area with my foot. I unearthed a ball, then another, and another.. golf balls were everywhere… dozens of them. The horror… the horror!
Mystery solved. I came back into the house to let my better half know we finally had an answer. She gave me a blank look that said “you interrupted my reading to tell me that?”, then lowered her gaze back onto her Kindle and went back to reading without uttering a word. Hmmm, apparently, this wasn’t a big deal to her.
While I had never before noticed the abrupt disappearance of so many as I had this year, I started wondering how many balls had been lost to this evil rodent over the years. There must be hundreds buried out in the woods. Was this work of a single red squirrel, a genetic misfit unable to tell the difference between an organic food source and a resin-coated, synthetic, dimpled orb. Or had a dray of them simply gone nuts (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)? Maybe this was red squirrel payback for relocating so many of their population via the live trap - an epic conspiracy along the lines of the movie Ben.
None of that is important now. What matters is how I’ll react. This snow is temporarily gone and the ground is not yet frozen. Do I resist the temptation of digging up the top 2” of my entire yard to recover my collection of practice balls? Speaking of going nuts...
Perhaps it’s time I found a new hobby. Maybe small game hunting.