It's no secret that golf can be an expensive game when you factor in the cost of clubs, green fees and golf balls. But for one player, his biggest expense is dog biscuits!
Barry Gell, of Dunfermline, Fife, rewards his collie Jess with a treat every time she finds a golf ball. That may not seem like much, but she's fetched more than 53,000 since 2005 – an average of 12 a day! Gell admits it's saved him "a fortune". The only hitch is finding somewhere to store them all...
"She's now collected 53,101 in total"
I got her in May 2005 and started training her in July. I kept throwing golf balls in the long rough for her to find. By the third day, she was digging in the heavy rough on the Struie course [at Royal Dornoch]. She came up with a Uniroyal golf ball. It was brown on top, black underneath and split in the middle. It must have been there for 20 years. And that was it; away she went.
Between then and October, she picked up 1,405 balls. If a course has been busy, I can come back from a round with 50 balls in my bag. Last year, at Canmore Golf Club, she found 6,227 balls. She's now collected 53,101 in total.
I get rid of most of them, but I don't make money. I keep the ladies and senior section going at Canmore. I donate a lot to charity shops, but they can't give them away quick enough. I've got a load on the bed in the spare room, and there's a bagful in the back of my car and between the seats.
If there's a ball in two feet of water, she'll go down and get it. She digs six feet into the ground sometimes. I've seen her go into the rough and pick up 30 balls. It's crazy. I've got a couple of balls which one of the members at Canmore reckons are worth over £100 apiece because they were made in 1906. She's saved me a fortune.
If she sees a ball going in the rough, she'll stand over it and wait for you to come over. But if you ignore her, she'll pick it up and drop it on the fairway. We've now got a ruling in our seniors group that if she finds your ball and drops it out, you play it as it lies. No penalty.
I used to have two other dogs, but they were more interested in rabbits. One was a white Alsatian called Zeus and when my wife and I were putting, Zeus would stand by the hole and if my wife's ball was going in, he would tap it with his nose and stop it dead. He must have thought she was struggling to get down and pick the ball out of the hole. Jess started bringing me two balls at a time once. But she realised that she was still only getting one biscuit, so she stopped that quite quickly!