The golf club cat burglar
Members at Aldeburgh Golf Club have the usual hazards to contend with when they tee off… bunkers, trees, the odd side wind.
But they are currently facing a unique test of their skills at the 408-yard 14th hole.
A cat called Merlin has started creeping on to the fairway and stealing balls after they bounce to a standstill.
At Aldeburgh Golf Club in Suffolk, a cat called Merlin has started creeping on to the fairway and stealing balls after they bounce to a standstill
The problem is so bad that the Suffolk club has had to introduce a ‘local rule’, approved by the sport’s governing body The Royal and Ancient in St Andrews, to take into account ‘abnormal conditions’.
A sign on the notice board warns: ‘A large brown Burmese cat has been seen picking up and carrying away golf balls in the vicinity of the 14th hole.’
It informs players the cat is being treated as an ‘outside agency’ – referring to the ball being moved by someone other than the player or caddy – allowing a substitute ball to be dropped without a penalty, unless it is in the rough.
One player said: ‘The cat is very clever. He knows the best place to be is half way down the fairway where most of the balls land.
‘I have seen him run on to the fairway and grab one in his mouth before running off again.’ Merlin, who is two, is owned by Peter Bryson, 67, and his wife Sara, 54, who live in a bungalow about 100 yards away from the club, which was founded in 1884.
The pet saunters across local gardens, crosses a private road and wriggles through a hedge to reach the spot where he strikes.
The problem is so bad that the Suffolk club has had to introduce a ‘local rule’, approved by the sport’s governing body, to take into account ‘abnormal conditions’
Mr Bryson, a retired plant operator at Sizewell A nuclear power station, said: ‘I don’t know what it is about golf balls but Merlin loves them.
‘We were quite surprised when he started bringing them home earlier this year. When he brings a ball back he looks as chuffed as Larry.
‘He has brought home as many as six in one day.’
Players’ frustration came to a head earlier this year when Merlin repeatedly struck at the 14th hole during a competition.
Mr Bryson contacted the club after hearing rumours that some fed-up members were planning to harm his pet to make him stay away from the course. But officials reassured him the comments were a joke.
Club PA Melissa Baker confirmed 'quite a few members' had seen Merlin stealing balls.
She said: 'Most take it in good humour but others have taken it more seriously.'