When I told my friends we were going to play golf and llamas, those docile, furry four-legged pack animals from South America, would caddy for us, the skepticism was real and the comments slightly unkind.
So when we showed up at the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, NC to play golf on the George W. Cobb designed course, my friends were surprised when instead of golf carts we got Vision and Legend, a pair of male llamas that immediately drew crowds as red cloth golf bags were strapped on their strong backs.
Llama owner Mark English, who would accompany us around the course, balanced the clubs in each golf bag, not worrying about the weight, since a llama can carry a fourth of their body weight, which ranges from 280 to 450 pounds.
The golfing trio and their llama cadies
"They need only to be balanced," said English, who patiently allowed sightseers to gather for photos with the llamas and watched as little kids rubbed the animal’s fur.
He warned the curious not to pet the llama’s heads and told us the other sensitive area was the llama’s feet, which are soft and not hoofed.
On the course, the three of us tried to figure out what was wrong with our golf games while the llamas stood stately nearby, never moving as we rattled the clubs in the bag before finding the club we wanted.
"I was surprised at how calm they were," said Gil Henshall, who soon was stroking Legend’s neck as the llama stood still and enjoyed it, like a cat being petted.
"I thought he might start purring," said Henshall.
Llamas are intelligent animals and can learn simple tasks after a few repetitions and English noted both animals were "potty trained."
Walking the course, with stunning mountain scenery as a backdrop, we could only marvel at the experience, easily forgetting our lamentable golf scores.
At the AAA rated Three Diamond High Hampton Inn, the llamas can be rented as caddies for $40 a round, and if English doesn’t lead them around, he has youngsters who have worked with the llamas accompany them on the course.
At times, the llamas are tethered with a stake in the ground and they obediently stay put.
Phil Van Reen, who rounded out our trio of golfers from Charlotte, said, "I didn’t believe you when you said we were going to have llamas for caddies. It was pretty cool. How many people can say they had a llama for a caddy?"