What Is a 'Goat Track' Golf Course?

"Goat track" is golf slang for a poorly maintained (or minimally maintained) golf course. It is mostly used as an insult, but sometimes can be applied affectionately by golfers who aren't put off by rough conditions.

I once worked for a local website that made deals with area golf courses to give away free rounds to readers. One golf course that did so was about 30 minutes outside of a big city. When the golfers who won the prize got home from their free round, they emailed, not very happy about the experience. They'd been expecting a good golf experience, but, they said, "that place is a goat track!"

I visited the golf course myself shortly after, and, true enough, it was a goat track. Tees and fairways were in poor condition, greens weren't much better. Thin grass, where there was grass at all; bunkers that were barely recognizable as such. It didn't bother me that much, because, since the conditions were what they were, the place was deserted. We just accepted the conditions for what they were and enjoyed ourselves in the quiet, open space.

Most golfers, however, would react the way the "prize" winners did: Poor conditions, bumpy fairways and greens, teeing grounds that you wouldn't recognize as such without the tee markers, turfgrass that is barely there, areas of hardpan, washed out or compacted bunkers — that's not what you expect when you pay your money.

You want a well-maintained golf course, not a goat track. You want a golf course fit for golfers, not one fit for goats. Similar terms to goat track are "dog track" and "rabbit run."

Is there a specific origin for the term "goat track"? It might surprise you to know that there is. In the days before mowing equipment and greenskeeping standards, some golf courses "mowed" the grass by letting goats loose on the golf course to munch away.

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