This Nugget is pure gold for golfers on small Far Northern course
PLAYING Macknade Golf Course? No problems, just follow Nugget.
As far as caddies go this fresh-faced border collie is top dog.
The seven-year-old has been obsessed with the nine-hole course in the tiny sugar-mill town south of Cardwell since his owners Paul and Caroline Britton moved to a nearby house two years ago.
At the sound of a car pulling up, Nugget will race across the vacant block and wait for the golfers on the first tee.
While they are setting up he tears down the fairway.
He'll then wait on the green, usually behind the flag in a stalk-like pose, as the players approach and once they play out the hole he'll trot to the next tee.
That continues for the full nine holes and not once does he try to move a ball.
In fact, he'll even help you search for a stray shot, navigate around a dog-leg and unlike most playing partners, Nugget won't sledge if you three putt.
Nugget even figures out how far each player is likely to hit each shot and waits within that range.
"We arrived and didn't know where to start, and all of a sudden this white dog appeared and went and sat next to the tee,'' Cairns Golf Club member Mark Witheridge said.
"It took us a while to figure out what was going on, because we were the only people at the course.
"But he played the whole nine with us.''
Mr Britton said his dog took an immediate liking to his new playground.
"He was our dog once, now he's the golf course's,'' Mr Britton said.
"He knows the course; not just hole-for-hole, but shot-for-shot. He's a very smart dog and I think he is just fascinated with the ball and likes the exercise he gets.''
The Brittons don't play golf, and at first were worried their dog was more a hindrance than a help.
What they didn't realise was he had already become the "club mascot''.
"Definitely a few of the grey nomads that play here regularly have called up asking if he'd still be there,'' course caretaker Peter Mondora said.
"People might not have been used to him to start with, but he's a real part of the place now.''
Paul's wife Caroline says he is simply obsessed with the course, which has about 70 members and was originally built for use by the staff at the nearby mill more than 100 years ago.
"He had hip displacements and has had surgery on both his legs. But we waited until after the season for his second surgery because we knew we couldn't keep him off it. Even then he was trying to get out there two days after surgery,'' she said.
"Another time we locked him inside on competition day, but he busted the door open and we came home to find him on the course. You've got to drag him away.''
The course is perched alongside the oldest established sugar mill in Queensland, which had its first crushing in 1874.
About 300 people live in Macknade, situated almost directly between Townsville and Cairns.
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This nugget is pure gold: Border collie Nugget displays his ambition of becoming a golf hound as he keeps his eye on the ball while a player putts at Macknade Golf Course. Picture: MARC McCORMACK