Work, work, work.
I hate when work gets in the way of quality golf time. I hate when work gets the way of okay golf time. I even hate when work gets in the way of chunky golf time. I’m sure we are seeing a pattern here, work is interfering with golf. I know, I know, it’s great to have a job, and I’m very lucky because I like my job, but still I have things to do and they have to do with historic golf courses. First I need to play and document the courses. Next I have to write and add visuals of my experience here in this blog. After I post the new blog I need to make some social media content to help promote the post. Imagine if there was a way to pay your bills, and pay for golf, sharing your experiences with thousands of your closest friends… maybe there is a way… I’ll have to look into to this after I finish posting the blog. Work, work, work.
I do long for the day when I will be able to plan, write, and share my historic golf course experiences without the interference of work. My vision looks a little like this. I venture out to play three to four historic courses in the golf season but I don’t rush home.
I’m able to linger to learn more about the area I’m in and get to know some local folks. Maybe I get to play golf at some other local favorites all the while writing about the adventure almost in real time.
Basically I would be on the road for a few months out of the year cruising around the country highlighting these hidden historic golf course. Hopefully inspiring folks to come out and try one of these great tracks, appreciate their place in the golf community, and hopefully preserve their memory. Until then, let me tell you about my journey to Catalina Island Golf Course.
Support on and off the course
It was my lucky day, for this adventure my caddie was available to join me for the round. Naturally when I say my caddie I mean my Wife Laura. And when I say she was available for this adventure I mean this was a detestation that was appealing to her.
For some reason, whenever I get to finally go to play at Ottawa Park in Toledo she won’t be available…how does she know when I’m going, I don’t even know when I’m going, she must be clairvoyant. I do like when Laura is caddieing for me, there is no one better reading greens from the golf cart some 30 yards off the green, no really, more times than not she has a good read. Also for some reason my scorecard never matches the caddy’s card. I seem to always be about 3 strokes better on her card then my card. I guess it really does pay off to help around the house!
Our plan was to make our journey to Catalina Island a day trip. We both have never been to the island so we did want to explore a bit and not rush around.
The island is 26 miles from Long Beach, CA and the ferry ride is about an hour long. The golf course is nine holes, and I was going to play it once. We wanted to walk around a little before the round, and maybe even after the round. While checking the ferry schedule we settled on departing at 6am and catching a 3:50pm ferry back to the mainland
We casted off for the island in total darkness, which was a little unsettling. Not being able to see your surroundings as you walk onto the ferry, and then looking over the boat at the inky black water.
It immediately conjures up a handful of horror films that start exactly the same way this trip was starting. As we slowly passed ocean liner the Queen Mary 2 with it’s rumored ghosts on board I leaned over to Laura and said with some reservation “I feel like I seen this movie before, and it didn’t end well for the couple golfing”
By the time we were on our way and at top speed it began to get a little brighter. We were treated to a great sunrise, and a little coffee. It was time to settle in for what turned out to be a very nice ride.
As we crept toward our destination you could see through the early morning fog an outline of what looked like sharp mountain peaks and sheer cliffs that fell straight into the ocean. It was an ominous sight reminiscent of Isla Nublar, which translates to “cloud island” and is the fictional island from Jurassic Park. We punched through the fog once we turned into the bay and we got our first glimpse of the quaint harbor of Avalon.
I was very impressed by the size of the Island and how rugged the shore line was, and what little shore line there was gave way to the ocean meeting cliffs with impressive force. Avalon was dwarfed by the nearby mountains; it appeared that this town was the only flat sea level spit of land on the island. My first thought was how steep are the hills going to be at Catalina Golf Course.
We hopped off the ferry and about 7am, our tee time was at 10am, so the first order of business was to get some breakfast, and to explore this town for a little while. Which translates to shopping. I’m not a fan, and Laura is, so shopping it is! *Word of warning for the shoppers out there, most stores don’t open until 9am
With the shops not open yet, breakfast was next on the agenda. We finished our breakfast at about 7:30-7:45. What to do, what to do. Yup, window shopping until the stores open, and then there will be shopping shopping. By 9 we had glanced at, sauntered by, and looked with our best puppy dog eyes through all the shop’s windows in Avalon.
It’s not a big town, and Laura is very efficient at scouting potential gifts and treats for family and friends. Luckily we escaped fairly unscathed due to the fact that our tee time was at 10 so we had to run…darn.
Up and Down
We grabbed a ride to the course near the ferry terminal and immediately began to climb up and away from the harbor. We drove through narrow streets through thick forest and in what seemed like seconds we punched through a clearing. We discovered summer cottages, some with cliff side views of the harbor far below us, and on the other side of the road were these spectacular valley views. This was very reminiscent of Kauai where you can go from shoreline to a mountain top in just a few minutes.
Still staring out both windows gazing at the sights we continued up another tight road and stopped, quite abruptly, we arrived. To my left there was a tiny oval practice green, no bigger than 20 feet long and to my right was a tiny “starters” shack, or at least that’s what it looked like, but no golf course. Perfect. I walked through a narrow doorway to enter the pro shop and it led me down a short hallway that opened up to a rather large outdoor event space. It was really nice, very secluded, and I imagined it would be a great reception venue. A few minutes later I stumbled into the pro shop, paid my greens fee, and asked where the course was. He pointed across the road saying the first tee next to the tennis court.
I slipped on my golf shoes, grabbed my bag, crossed the road, and I walked about 50 yards uphill from the tiny practice green. I could start to see the course as I made my way to the street side tee box..
What a sight, I was standing on the tee box looking out at a fairway that was maybe 200 yards below me. What a surprise and what an introduction to Catalina Island Golf Club. The only question now was what club to hit? For some reason I was thinking 3 wood, I guess because there was what looked like a creek or something running through the fairway and I wanted to make sure I didn’t land into it.
First swing of the day, elevated tee, no wind, let the majestic drive commence.
Ok, it wasn’t a horrible shot, I think it would have been a worm burner had it not been for the elevated tee, the ball never got any higher than the tee box, and it was sort of straight, but more right then I wanted. Most importantly I didn’t totally mess up this amazing first tee experience.
The perspective changed a lot once we made our way to the fairway. As we drove to the ball I could see a significant hill at the dogleg right creating a blind shot to the green that was not obvious from 200 yards away and 200 yards in the sky. Playing the second shot was a bit trickier than I wanted. I was off the fairway sitting a few inches in the second cut with a tree branch in my line of play. Clubbing down to a 6 iron and thinking if I happen to swing hard enough the ball might fade around the branch and follow the dog leg right right up to the green.
I don’t know how to fade or draw the ball on purpose, and my swing is inconsistent enough that I can’t count on an “over swing” fade or draw either. I hit a very good 6 iron straight through the tree branch, and true to form the ball was not fading or drawing, it was flying straight as an arrow over a rather large hill right of the fairway and over to the other side of the hill. With great anticipation we drove toward the hill and turned the corner, and right in the middle of the fairway my ball was sitting about 60 yards from the green. I ended up with a rare par on a first hole, and yes, it was a good start to the day.
The round was great, not because of the score, I think I was 7 over for nine holes. Not bad, but this round was great mostly because of the surroundings, and of course, the company 🙂. It almost felt like, if you were hiking in a jungle and you came to an edge of a cliff and looked down and discovered a golf course. It was very isolated even though a bustling port town was minutes away from the course. After the ninth hole we ascended the pathway back to civilization, bought a shirt at the club house, and headed back into town. It was 1:00pm and we had a 3:30 ferry to catch back to the mainland, which was plenty of time to do some shopping shopping, and get some lunch. It was an early start to this golf outing, and we packed more in the day then your usual golf round. It’s not every day you board a ferry, travel 26 miles out to sea, discover a vibrant harbor town, and play nine holes of golf in a jungle.