Untamed Lowcountry

‘It was surreal’: Massive 9-foot gator stuns Savannah golfers, plops down near 17th hole

A massive Savannah alligator showed a group of golfers who is king of the course on Sunday.

The 9-foot alligator halted a round of golf when it creeped across the 17th green at The Club at Savannah Harbor around 5 p.m. Just a few feet from the golfers, the alligator plopped in front of the hole to momentarily bask in front of the sun.

Ed Vance, a Savannah local, captured the two-minute alligator encounter on video, just a few feet away. The video has been shared over 1,000 times.

Vance said he was getting ready to “chip up” onto the 17th green when they heard a loud noise coming from the brush line.

“We all looked at each other and were asking what is that noise,” Vance said. “At first, I thought it was the maintenance crew on the other side of the brush cutting it back or something. “

Then a gigantic alligator popped its head through the brush and stomped onto the green. Vance immediately grabbed his phone and started filming.

“That is nuts,” Vance said in the video. “Dude, that’s a monster.”

The alligator was so large, Vance could hear its feet stomping across the green.

“I will always remember the sound of his feet when he was walking on the green,” he said. “The video doesn’t pick it up, but the ‘thud, thud, thud’ sound was what you would think a dinosaur sounds like. It was surreal.”

About a minute into the video, the enormous reptile appears to get winded from walking and plops right next to the flag on the green.

Vance said they were happy the gator maneuvered around their golf balls on the green. He can be heard on the video saying “good, good good.”

“Y’all wanna play through?” one of the golfers joked as the giant gator stretched across the green.

As the alligator rested momentarily, another golfer in the group took the opportunity to sprint to get his putter directly behind it.

“(His putter) was close to the line the alligator had taken to get to the pond,” he said. “I would have left the putter right there!”

Vance said the colossal creature didn’t seem aggressive at all.

“It did not appear to notice or care about us at all,” he said. “It just wanted to get back to the pond.”

Vance is a member of the club and said he sees alligators all the time. The golf course on Hutchison Island is just a few miles away from the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, a conservation area known for alligators. Last year, a photographer captured a video of 50 alligators at once in a pond at the refuge.

“We notice them and respect them, but really don’t pay that much attention to them because we are used to them and we expect them to be there. It is their habitat we are in,“ he said. “This was definitely a different experience though. He was massive and you just don’t expect them to walk up to the green while you are there.”

Vance said the golfers couldn’t stop talking about the once-in-a-lifetime alligator encounter. He said experiences like that are what make living in the Lowcountry truly special.

“The alligators, birds, turtles, and the occasional bobcat and coyote just add to the overall experience,” he said.

Lowcountry alligators move more in the springtime, as they make their way into warmer waters after hibernating during the winter, and their movement patterns change as it gets closer to mating season. But that’s no reason to worry, experts say.

“These animals are really simple,” naturalist Jessica Miller previously told The Island Packet. “They like to be in their water or bask right by it. We just need to stay back.”

Mandy Matney is an award-winning journalist and self-proclaimed shark enthusiast from Kansas. She worked for newspapers in Missouri and Illinois before she realized Midwestern winters are horrible, then moved to Hilton Head in 2016. She is the breaking news editor at the Island Packet.