Well, it finally happened. I guess it had to at some point.
We moved off of the driving range, and on to a Real Golf Course.
We waited for the absolute slowest time of day for the course, naturally, and we picked a 9-hole course.
And that’s all good, because it took us three (3) hours to play nine (9) holes of golf…even with a golf cart.
I was happy because only once did we almost sort-of possibly get lost and wind up hitting from a tee towards the wrong hole, and we fixed that before we sent any balls off. And, I will admit, driving a cart around the course, on the grass and over rickety wooden bridges and stuff?
This, by the way, was the Golf Course of Legend, the one where the guy hit off the fourth tee, sent his ball onto the adjacent roadway, where it hit a moving car, and bounced back onto the course and rolled right into the hole…for an Automotive-Mediated Hole-In-One.
No shit, there I was. Or there I wasn’t, since this happened in the 90s, long enough ago that the arbor vita that were planted right behind that hole in the hopes of keeping any more insurance claims from passing motorists off the backs of the golf course had grown right up into proper tree-sized shrubs.
That’s right. No chance of any further car-assisted holes. Still, it felt like a Moment of History as we stood there at the women’s t and faced the road.
It was a Moment of History, too. Personal history. Recent history. Because – as with nearly every tee-off we made on this course, the sound of the club THWACKING the ball was followed within 2 minutes by one or the other of us calling out “Where is my ball?” or “Where did the ball go?” or “Did you see where that fell?”
Or, in my case, because I am sorry to admit, I turn out to be a “short hitter” the TWHACK of club-on-ball was most often followed by a muttered profanity. And – after the third hole, wherein I lost five balls – yes, that is five (5) golf balls lost to the woods or to water on one (1) SINGLE HOLE – by a sigh, and a statement like “Oh, no, not again.” or “Blast. It figures.” or “ROY! I need another ball honey!!”
Week before last, before the vicious heat wave socked us into immobility, Roy and I had planned this Outing To The Links. We were actually on our way late one afternoon, when I said “Stop.” Roy did not stop, so I said it again. “Stop, I said.”
Roy has something of vital importance in common with Buster “I Don’t Need Any Special Moniker Because I’m That Damned Cool” Kitty and Huey “That’s The Wonder Horse To You, Buddy”. And that would be a near-total disinclination to listen to anything I’m saying, let alone follow directions, unless persuaded that listening and following on are the Path Of Least Effort. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Ten years with Roy is what prepared me for the Prince Of The Horse Kingdom.
So Roy did not stop, but at least he initiated a negotiation. “Why?” he said, as he continued driving toward the course like an arrow loosed from the bow.
“We can’t go to the course yet.” I said.
“Yes we can. We’re doing it right now” he said. “If we don’t do it now, when will we do it?”
“Er,” I said. “We can do it after we buy golf balls and tees? Because right now, we have one (1) ball and zero (0) tees, and I’m pretty sure that the Real Golf Course will not be supplying the first in a bucket, and the second in the form of a strange rubber tube sticking up from the grass.”
So off to the Wal-Mart we went, where I concluded that the Industrial Pak of tees was the one for us, while Roy located a large net sack of recycled golf balls. I filled up the ball pocket on each of our golf bags, and stuck the other half of the Sack O Balls on our porch. I felt that we might lose one or two, and that somewhere around August would need to refill.
Hey. We both completely suck at golf. What do we care whether the balls are recycled or not? We’re so bad that we can’t even see “golf handicap” from where we stand. We’re just lucky when the ball doesn’t dribble out of the tee box…or almost as bad, the ball doesn’t get lofted 40 feet in the air on the drive, and drop to the earth 10 feet from where we stood to hit it off. So, the Big Bag O’ Balls it was.
We didn’t get to use any of this properly until this afternoon, when we arrived to find – thankfully – that the golf course was virtually deserted. Deserted except for the party immediately ahead of us, that is. We stood there at the Women’s tee…because even though Roy almost qualifies for the Senior Citizen’s tee, we both know we need all the help we can get. And we regarded the party currently occupying the putting green on Hole 1.
Then, because golf appears to be about, in equal parts, hitting, walking, cursing, and arguing, we had our First Argument On The Links. We couldn’t figure out whether it was OK to tee off with those guys on the green. On the one hand, we needed to get things moving before our feet got cold and we quit, or before another party came up to sandwich us in between two (2) batches of Actual Golfers. On the other hand, we felt that it might be Poor Form to tee off with someone on the green. On the third hand, neither one of us had the chutzpah to think that the ball we were about to hit was going to get anywhere near that green. On the fourth hand, we weren’t sure where it would go. Think of it this way: the ball could dribble off the tee, in which case we’d just sneak out and put it back and take a Do-Over. Or we could hit it hard and fast, and get it halfway there. Neither one of these presented a danger to the party on the green. OR we could wait for a minute, let them clear the green, and then wallop the ball off the tee only to have it go long and hard and curve way the heck off the fairway in the direction of the second tee, thus catching up with the very people we’d hoped to avoid hitting. Neither one of us assigned a very high probability to the ball actually going to the green.
And quite right we were. We decided that the “safest” thing to do would be to let the party ahead of us clear the green and move on. At which point Roy teed off, and by golly, sent his ball long and hard and curving way the heck off the fairway in the direction of the second tee, thus catching up with the very people we’d hoped to avoid hitting. I watched it curve, and belatedly bellowed FORE!!! in the same voice I use when I catch Huey trying to dig a hole down to China with his hoof while standing tied at the hitching post.
Then I teed off, and sent my ball directly into the woods.
The driving range is easier. You don’t have to keep track of the balls, you just have to hit them. Also, the driving range is pretty light on “woods”.
It’s also light on “water” which we ran into right away, because while my ball actually hit a tree and bounced back to the edge of the fairway – where I clocked it off and sent it onto the green (and in only two additional strokes!!), Roy located his ball lying just short of the second tee, and clocked it off and sent it directly into the creek, where it was Lost To All Mankind. The golf course is named after a brook, and nine holes there is enough to let me know why that is. In Texas, it would be because “Beaver Brook Golf Course” sounds all country and festive. Here, it’s because there is a brook, and beavers who have made little lakes. I don’t know that every one of the nine holes had that damned creek running through it, or beaver ponds on it, but if not, it must have been an administrative oversight.
The second hold came off with some reasonable amount of time, and only one more lost ball. Somewhere in there I actually made par on one of the holes. The fourth, I think, the Car Hole. It’s not easy for me to remember because the third hole was so traumatic.
I knew it was going to be bad when I saw that it was a par 5, and when we had trouble finding the flag that marks the hole. No shit, there we were, standing on the Women’s tee – the one closest to the hole, and peering about. “Is that it?” I said. “Nah,” Roy said. “Those guys on that green aren’t the ones who are in front of us.” “There it is,” he said. “Nope,” I said. “The tee boxes aren’t facing in the right direction for that to be our hole.” Finally we located a tiny pennant hidden off in the mists of great distance, and agreed that this must be our hole.
I’d checked the little bas-relief map of the hole that is provided next to the Real Golfer Tees (i.e., the Men’s tee and the Pro tee). It revealed that the bloody brook was cutting across the fairway again, and that the putting green was surrounded on three sides by bunkers, also known as “sand traps”. What it did not reveal was that the putting green was located on a veritable butte, and that it was surrounded on all sides by an unbelievably steep pitch that was designed to funnel your ball away from the hole and directly into the maw of the bunkers.
“Be careful,” I said. “You’ll either need to hit really long and hit over that blasted brook, or you need to hit short and take two strokes to get up to the green.”
Ha. Ha. Ha.
That was all quite true, I should note. The strategy on that hole really does require considering whether to go long or short. The only error in my thinking was in supposing that this line of reasoning had anything at all to do with either one of us.
And I say this because Roy teed off, and hit the ball all of 18 inches. He picked it back up and teed off again. This time it went perhaps three feet.
I was able, through Great And Determined Effort, to avoid saying something like “I didn’t mean to go that short.”
This is because Roy was lining up for his third go with a 3-wood, and even though I can face down Huey in a Dramatic Moment, and tell off Buster Kitty with impunity, I do have a shred of a self-preservation instinct.
On his third try, Roy hit the ball twenty yards down the fairway, where it landed in the rough. He sighed.
Then it was my turn, and clearly that tee is Cursed. My first go sent the ball six (6) feet away. My second go sent the ball into the woods, where it was Lost To All Mankind. I fetched another ball from the bag, and sent that one, likewise, into the woods. Eventually, I hit a good (short) drive and landed my ball on the fairway. While Roy hiked out to his all in the rough, I hiked to my ball on the fairway. I had swapped out for the 5-hybrid, commonly known as the “Rescue Club”. I gave the ball a firm wallop with that club, whereupon it went directly into the blasted brook. I hiked back to the cart, got another ball. That one, likewise, went directly into the brook. Finally, I played a ball from where Roy’s next stroke landed, and managed to send that ball directly into the brook as well.
At this point, the vision of Charlie Brown’s Kite-Eating Tree was unavoidable.
Five balls. I lost five balls. I managed to lose five (5) FIVE balls on a single hole.
Roy lost another few, and then I lost another few.
Then I realized that golf consists, in equal parts, of hitting, walking, cursing, and arguing AND saying “Did you see where my ball went?, “Where’s my ball?” and “Damn. I just lostanother one!”
Somewhere around Hole 5, maybe Hole 6, Roy confessed to me that he was nearing the bottom of his pocket of balls. “What do I do?” he said.
I thought for a minute. “We play until we run out of balls, that’s what.”
Yep. That’s golf. You play until you run out of balls. Yogi Berra couldn’t have put it any better.
I was happy to find, as I made my way between the 9th tee and the 9th hole, in the trees and on the other side of the trees, stopping every fifty feet or so to hit my ball another fifty feet in the vague and general direction of the hole, that another party was in the process of teeing off on the 1st. As I searched for my ball in the rough (again) I heard it:
right before a ball dropped out of the sky and fell three feet away from me, directly into a gigantic mud puddle left by a pair of tractor wheels rolling across ground that was too wet to support it.
After another few 50-foot hikes, I saw him, the golfer who obviously was the one yelling “Fore”. He radiated it from every pore: Dude! Where’s my ball?
I advised him that he’d find it behind me on the muddiest spot on the entire course, and that he’d need to hit it back across the 9th fairway and onto the 1st fairway, as there was no unobstructed line of sight between the vasty mud puddle that was the ball’s current resting place, and its ultimate destination of the 1st hole.
You play until all the balls are gone.