Norwich golfer loses ball to pesky crow - twice
Stone the crows! Eaton Golf Club's Ray Dineen is counting the cost after a thieving bird stole his ball twice on the same hole.
The 13-handicapper was playing a friendly fourball when the crow swooped on the 15th, but he still managed a par four using three different balls.
He takes up the tale: 'I drove off and my ball finished just short of a bunker on the right.
'As one of my opponents drove off, I saw a crow come down, pick up my ball and fly off with it.
'It was a yellow ball and I could see it in its mouth.'
Mr Dineen, of King Street, Norwich, dropped a ball where his first had finished and hit it up towards the green.
'The bloomin' thing came down again, walked around looking at all our balls and picked mine up and flew off again!
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'I dropped another ball, chipped it on the green – and holed the putt for a par before it could come again!
'We wondered what the crow does with the balls – at that rate it must have a huge stack.'
Eaton golf club manager Peter Johns remarked: 'The 15th hole seems to be the favourite place for thieving crows and it's quite a talking point at the club.
'It would be worth finding the birds' stash – there's bound to be quite a few top quality Titleist ProVIs in there!'
Mr Johns, a qualified rules expert, is also used to members asking for a ruling on a stolen ball (see panel).
A quick internet search reveals that golf ball-stealing crows are a global phenomenon.
There are reports of beaky exploits from places as far apart as Australia, Holland, Turkey, Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
One golf club had a crow cull to discourage the feathered thefts, while golfers offer varied advice for dealing with the situation, such as chilli or Tabasco sauce-covered balls... or more drastic measures.
Why do the crows do it?
One theory is that the birds think the balls are eggs.
They steal them, drop them to break them open, but when they don't crack and they can't eat them, they start playing with them.
There are reports of golfers finding ball stashes containing as many as 400 balls!
It certainly arouses passions. There's one tale of a lady golfer in a buggy storming after a crow thief, without success of course.
But crows aren't the only hazard faced on the fairway.
One golfer reports having balls stolen by two foxes: 'They hide, then pop out right when you hit a perfect drive in the middle of the fairway (new ProV1).
'I always try to chase them down...I ran about 200 yards at one once out of rage...but they wait and stare you down until you're about 30 feet away and then they just calmly turn around and take off...'