By Dr Tom Dorsal, PhD

It seems to me that a solution to the alligator problem when it comes to golf courses is to keep GOLFERS away from the lagoons and the alligators, since the ALLIGATORS are not going to stay away from the lagoons and the golfers.  I have three suggestions:

  1. Establish a local rule of 2 club-lengths relief from any lagoon, no closer to the hole, for any ball that comes to rest within 2 club lengths of a lagoon and is not in the lagoon.  Of course, if it is in the lagoon, the normal hazard penalty applies.
    Now this is not the same as the “dangerous animal” rule (Rules of Golf, #16.2).  This local rule would apply to any lagoon, whether a dangerous animal is visible or not.  This would be a good rule for all courses in the low country.  Indeed, some prominent course could set the example — that is, step up and be proud of being the first to implement the “Local Lagoon Rule.”
  2. If the local rule option is sadly not adopted, then let the rough on the bank grow an inch or two longer.  Now I don’t mean 3rd cut U.S. Open rough.  Just one or two inches, such that balls could still quickly be found; but, at the same time, be less likely to roll all the way down to the water’s edge, where players are tempted to look for it, and/or play it, while standing very near the lagoon.  Again, if you outright hit the ball in the water, the normal hazard rules apply.
  3. As an adjunct to both suggestions above, starters should tell groups on the first tee that if one of the players in the group is going to play a shot from close to a lagoon, everyone else should stand nearby with heavy sand wedges at the ready.  These “armed guards” would be in a position to provide warning of a floating predator, or clobber the creature, if one surreptitiously attempts a sneak attack!  This is just an application of Teddy Roosevelt’s: “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.”

Further support for this 3rd suggestion, to gather as a group on the bank, is that kayaks on expeditions down the Nile River in Africa travel in close proximity, almost linked together, so they look more like one big boat in the water, thereby deterring crocodiles from attacking such a big object.  If that same logic were to apply to alligators, a group of people close together on the bank might be interpreted by alligators as one big formidable creature that the alligator does not want to risk attacking.

Dr. Tom Dorsel is a sport psychologist on HHI and a longtime newspaper and magazine columnist.  His best selling book is “GOLF: The Mental Game.”  Contact him at