Countless studies have proven that pets are both mentally and physically beneficial to a person’s wellbeing. Interacting with pets boosts your levels of oxytocin, otherwise known as the “cuddle chemical” or “bonding hormone.” Benefits of this hormonal release include decreased blood pressure and heart rate, enhanced social skills, and reduced levels of anger, stress, and depression — some of the very same reasons people play golf (at least until their round goes off the rails!).

Recently, an international team of golf-obsessed scientists launched a bold new study to determine the role pets play in their owners’ golf games. Additionally, the study will reveal the ideal pets for each golfer based on their handicap. While the data is still being compiled, and the final results are many months away, some preliminary findings have been leaked:

Hacks — Pot-Bellied Pig

If your golf skills (or lack thereof) are such that you’re categorized as a “hack,” it’s likely you’re used to (and fully accepting of) some ridicule when it comes to your swing, and/or your overall golfing ability. If this describes you, a pot-bellied pig is your perfect companion. Those jokes at your expense out on the links will be similar to what you’ll hear when you walk your pig or bring it to the local dog park. But outside noise aside, a pot-bellied pig for a pet tells the world that you don’t give a rat’s ass what people think about you or your choice of companion animal, much like a hack doesn’t care about what others think about their substandard golf skills. Their love for the game is all that matters, as does their love for their four-legged friend. Both hacks and pot-bellied pig owners are typically very secure in themselves, and that translates to a match made in heaven. Alternative Pet: Miniature Horse, Pygmy Goat

30-36 Handicap — Golden or Labrador Retrievers

Duffers with the highest of high handicaps tend not to take the game that seriously — or at least not as seriously as golfers with significantly lower handicaps. That’s not to say they don’t want to improve and are making efforts to that effect, but for high handicappers, the round itself is far more important than their final score. Just being outside, amid nature, enjoying the links for what it represents — a respite from the reality of work and the daily grind — is the reward. Often, high handicappers don’t care about the skills of their playing partners, either. They’d much rather play with golfers who share a similar golfing philosophy: fun and loosey-goosey, not by-the-book rule-mongering. On the pet side of this equation, Retrievers are generally thought of like the goofy, friendly, “we love everyone and everything” canine breed. They don’t care where they are (and quite often who they’re with) — they just want to be outside, seeing the sights, smelling the smells, savoring every morsel of active life. And they’ll be loving and loyal 24/7/365 to anyone who allows them to enjoy this carefree lifestyle. Alternative Pet: Cocker Spaniel, Old English Sheepdog

20-29 — Reptiles (Snakes or Iguanas)

Golfers with handicaps in this range are a bit of an anomaly. More often than not, they haven’t figured out if they truly love the game, merely like the game, or simply tolerate the game because of current business or social circles. Improving their handicap isn’t a priority, either. Oddly enough, the one commonality of golfers with a handicap in this range centers on their equipment; they want to stand out from the crowd, be it with funky headcovers, custom-fitted off-brand clubs, hand-painted golf bags, or even their attire. For these golfers, a reptile is an ideal pet. The showiest of the lot will opt for a python or a boa constrictor. They don’t require much maintenance, save for the feeding of a live mouse or rat every so often. They tend to make great conversation starters, especially for the egomaniacs who need to dominate a conversation. Golfers with an aversion to seeing little creatures consumed before their very eyes, or those who subscribe to a vegan lifestyle, can opt for an iguana instead. Iguanas eat all manner of leafy greens and, once again, are not difficult to keep. Similarly, blue-tongued skinks will eat canned dog food and never need their bellies rubbed. Alternative Pet: Tortoise

10-19 — House Cats

Handicaps in this range are generally thought of as excellent “hustling” handicaps. Golfers with these handicaps can get hot and go super low just as easily as they can play to a score consistent with their established rating. It’s for that reason that any type of domestic house cat makes the ideal pet. Cats can be sweet and cuddly one moment, and a heartbeat later they want absolutely nothing to do with their human companion. They’re crafty and cunning, exactly like a golfer who has money wagered on his or her round. Furthermore, golfers with a 10-19 handicap could go to the range intending to hit balls for an hour and wind up spending the entire day at the club, culminating with a cocktail or three when their practice spree is complete. Unlike dogs and most other warm-blooded pets, cats can pretty much fend for themselves. Leave out enough food and water, and you could easily disappear for a long golfing weekend, and when you return, you and your finicky feline can pick up exactly where you left off. Alternative Pet: Ferrets, Sugar Gliders

Sticks — Tropical Fish

Anyone with a sub-10 handicap, especially those golfers at or near scratch, don’t have the time (or the desire) to spend walking dogs or cleaning out litter boxes. That’s not to say they wouldn’t do it, but let’s face it, their hearts wouldn’t really be into it. They want to be out on the links, bonding with their driver or their putter, not picking up poop and bonding with something that barks and drools. Golf is their obsession, and why not? They’ve proven to be damn good at it! For these single-minded individuals, a fish tank filled with colorful tropical fish is the perfect post-round relaxation. It still allows them to have another care besides improving their putting stroke or sand trap play, but it won’t stop them from heading out at a moment’s notice to play 36 holes (or more) or even take advantage of an Old Course getaway without feeling guilty. (Look up “auto-feeders.” Your fish will be fine!) Sticks have the kind of game other golfers envy because they can block out everything else and remain “in the moment” shot after shot after shot — something that’s virtually impossible to do if your furry friend is at the vet or the groomers. Simply put, sticks are more than a little selfish, and that’s OK. They’ve earned that right. Alternative Pet: Pet Rock

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