Most golfers dream of a birdie – a double eagle or an albatross – but nobody longs for a crow.
However, that’s exactly what players at Leeds oldest golf club are getting – lots of crows.
The feathered fiends have been swooping down on Headingley Golf Club and stealing members’ balls – sometimes before they’ve even made it past the first hole.
John Hall, club secretary, said: “There must be in excess of 100 that have gone now.
“They come across and pick the balls up and fly off with them.”
He added: “About a week after it first started I was playing with a group and I got a ball pinched.
“It was taken from in front of us on the 18th hole.”
He said the ball thefts had become “a very regular occurrence” for the past six weeks, with ball-pinching hot spots around the first, second and 18th holes.
If they were all premium balls the brazen bandits would have collected a little nest egg worth more than £400.
Mr Hall said: “As a precaution I never use a brand new ball on the first now. I play the first couple of holes then get a new ball out.”
The 49-year-old said several years ago a dog walker had stumbled across a hollow tree near Temple Newsam containing around 1,500 golf balls, believed to have been stashed by birds.
“We are wondering if there’s a similar scenario close to Headingley – a hollow space that’s full of golf balls.”
When members at Howley Hall Golf Club in Morley, Leeds, experienced similar problems – with up to seven balls a day being stolen by crows – the RSPB said there was a simple explanation for the birds’ bizarre behaviour.
“Crows will take the eggs of other birds, so if they see a golf ball they may consider it to be an egg and steal it.”
The charity advised players to use fluorescent balls instead of the traditional white ones.
The rules of golf state that if a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, there is no penalty.
The ball must be played from where it originally lay and if the ball is not immediately recoverable, another may be substituted.
Mr Hall, a member for 35 years, said: “This time of year we are not playing any competitive golf so it doesn’t really affect anybody.
“The competition season starts at the end of April, so hopefully the situation will sort itself out.”
So far, members have not been tempted to take action against the thieves.
Mr Hall said: “Obviously there’s been calls to go out and try and shoot them but that’s not what we do.”
The dad-of-two added: “Balls go missing – it’s not the end of the world.”