While most golf clubs anywhere in the world depend on lawnmowers to keep their golfing environment in perfect trim, quite a few New Zealand venues - simple yet challenging courses set in farmers' fields - also have the help of the country's ubiquitous sheep to keep the grass in check. Take the Piopio-Aria Golf Club in North Island, for example. The 18-hole, 5,363-metre, par-70 course, is just south of Te Awamutu (home of the Finn brothers of Crowded House and Split Enz fame), on the Main Road North, where hundreds of sheep wander around, nibbling away at the long grass on the fairways. These creatures seem to possess built-in radar, for they are never in the way of oncoming objects and will quickly move away if they sense something approaching. Should a player chance to hit an unfortunate creature, the local Rule 19-1 applies: Ball striking sheep, outside agency, no penalty, play the lie. The greens are surrounded by wire fences to keep the sheep out, lest their hooves damage the putting surface. If a ball strikes the fence, the player may replay the shot without penalty. Other obstacles covered in the provisions include tractor marks and power lines, but there is nothing about a ball landing in sheep dung, a definite hazard. A recent weekday visit to Piopio-Aria found the course deserted. An 'honour box' built into the clubhouse wall had a sign asking visitors to deposit NZ$15 as a green fee and to wear proper golf shoes, not Wellington boots. New Zealand has many such sparsely populated courses, ideal spots for those new to the game to swing without worrying about disrupting anyone's play. The adventurous player might wish to note other 'natural' obstacles unique to a country famed for its extraordinary beauty and unusual natural features: the Waikohu Golf Club near Gisborne, for example, lists a large bull as its top hazard, while the Rotorua Golf Club, in the heart of North Island's geothermal activity, has a steaming lake and bubbling mud pools on its 16th hole.