Beware of the four-legged ball thieves at Fox Meadow Golf & Country Club in Stratford, Prince Edward Island

STRATFORD, Prince Edward Island, Canada -- It won't cost you a stroke, but it could cost you a golf ball.

Long after the birdies and bogeys have faded from your mind, you'll remember your round at Fox Meadow Golf & Country Club because of the wildlife. In fact, the four-legged thieves that patrol the property might just keep a souvenir from your visit.

"We call it Fox Meadow because there are a lot of foxes, and we actually had to put a rule on the scorecard that if a fox takes your ball, you're allowed to replace it without penalty," General Manager Harry Simmonds said. "The foxes do take a number of golf balls. They'll actually wait out on the fairway, knowing how far the average person hits it, and probably on the first or second hop, away they go with your ball. Or they'll wait on the green and when you hit the ball onto the green, they'll come and take your ball.

"It happens all the time. A lot of times, they bury them and you go to see where they buried them and you can't find them. They must think they're eggs or something."

Hard to believe, but that's not necessarily the worst thing that can happen.

A fox can only carry one golf ball at a time, so they'll sometimes urinate on others to mark them as their property. In other words, if you find an abandoned golf ball in the middle of the fairway, you might want to think twice before scooping it up.

"Sometimes, people will come in and they've lost a Pro-V1 and it looks like they're half upset," Simmonds said with a chuckle. "But I think they're happy that they can talk about the experience."

Indeed, the cunning capers will add to the experience, even if they subtract from your golf ball collection.

With so many foxes roaming the rolling terrain, it's easy to forget this 6,836-yard layout is located just outside the provincial capital city of Charlottetown. From the clubhouse and first tee, you can often spot cruise ships sailing through the harbor. Once you've traversed a couple of holes, though, you certainly won't feel like you're just a few miles -- "Seven minutes if you hit all the lights," Simmonds said -- from Charlottetown's charming downtown area.

Navigating Robert Heaslip's design doesn't require a lot of long drives, either.

Fox Meadow Golf & Country Club's 326-yard second hole provides an early birdie opportunity, as long as you steer clear of two sand traps that will swallow errant approach shots.

Measuring just 137 yards from the tips, No. 7 also seems like easy pickings, although you might feel a little weak at the knees as you stare down a water hazard that wraps around three sides of the green.

And as you size up the finishing stretch, the foxes will be the least of your worries. If you're not accurate off the tee over the final four holes, you'll bury your own ball in the woods.

"The ordinary golfer will probably use every club in the bag," Simmonds said. "Usually, what we hear is that the course is user-friendly, that it's in great shape and that it's a great challenge."

The Canadian Golf Academy, Prince Edward Island's most state-of-the-art practice facility, is also located at Fox Meadow. Individual lessons and group golf schools are available.

Fox Meadow Golf & Country Club: The verdict

It's not just the proximity to Charlottetown that makes Fox Meadow Golf & Country Club a favorite among the locals.

Fox Meadow isn't as dramatic as PEI's premier layouts -- namely, Dundarave and the Links at Crowbush Cove -- but it's a little more user friendly, more walkable and more affordable. Plus, you'll enjoy the type of service you usually only see at more expensive set-ups, such as a lift from the parking lot to the clubhouse.

And don't let the foxes scare you off. Just be warned that the little rascals not only collect golf balls, but they'll also help themselves to your breakfast sandwich or hot dog if you don't keep a close eye on it.

Wes Gilbertson covers the NHL’s Calgary Flames and writes golf features for Postmedia in Calgary, Alta. When the snow melts, he's living proof that thin mountain air doesn't turn everybody into a long-drive specialist. Follow Wes on Twitter at @WesGilbertson.

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Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.
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Beware of the four-legged ball thieves at Fox Meadow Golf & Country Club in Stratford, Prince Edward Island