I’ve been thinking...it’s been a while since I’ve checked in with anyone. I hope everyone is doing well, and I hope everyone is looking to a nearing future when we can start to relax a little and begin to share stories and laughs in person. That will be nice. Oh and what’s that...I’m doing just fine, thanks. Bottomline, I’m lucky. I still have a job, I have been able to relax and swing the clubs in the Golf Dojo, and like lots of other folks near me I’ve discovered some pretty cool hiking trails that have been hidden right under my nose.
Unfortunately, I haven't had much blog material to craft a whimsical tale of a golf adventure somewhere in the middle of anywhere. I’ve come to the Golf War Room many times and started many blogs, re-worked them all, and deleted so many potential blog posts I forget what I was even writing about. I needed to look back, way back, to 2019 to remind myself that I actually started the adventure to play the oldest public golf courses in the US. It happened, it actually was a thing.
As lots of people are discovering, playing golf is probably one of the best social distance activities ever created and golf had to change very little to suit the current social safety protocols. Golfers of all skill levels have flooded the courses leaning that after you check in and you're waiting to unleash the first drive of the day you are pretty much always safely separated from your fellow playing partner.
At the tee you are well behind the person teeing off, putting yourself in position to spot the tee shot. As each person tees off there is a well synchronized rotation between teeing off and slipping in position to spot the other golfer's drive.
As balls from each drive fly right, left, and way short of the first fairway everyone heads to their respected ball creating very large social distance between everyone during their 5 or 6 shot journey to the green. After everyone has settled on or near the green it’s time to putt. This activity is a singular event in which the other folks are standing near their ball or to the side of the person putting. The person basically putts their ball until it mercifully drops into the cup. Once the last ball rattles into the cup everyone goes around picking up any extra clubs they might have brought to the green and head to the next hole adding up their 6,7, or 8 or so… strokes.
I was lucky to get out and play at the start of the 2021, and I decided to start at the hardest course in the area, Hiddenbrooke.
I thought why not knock the rust off my game with a sledgehammer. Hiddenbrooke is a course that you measure your success not by score or greens in regulation, no, Hiddenbrooke's success bar is measured by the number of golf balls you still have at the end of the round. My thought was I would get beat up and then start to build my game and my spirit back up, and be in fine form by April. Too my surprise I left the round only losing two golf balls, my average loss is more like 8 golf balls...no joke, and that's a good round! A score equivalent to losing only two golf balls might be like me shooting even par for the day, and I’m a 17 handicap.
Maybe it was the countless balls I was hitting in the Golf Dojo while we were shelter in place, maybe it was the time away from the course and it cleared my mind so I could just enjoy the round? Whatever it was I know one thing, you never dive too deep to the why’s, you quietly put your clubs in the trunk and sneak out the back parking lot and never look back.
Late in January I was sitting quietly on the couch still very satisfied from my round at Hiddenbrooke when I got a call from my Son...to play golf. That never happens, and when it did I jumped at the offer. How great is that? He’s just now getting into golf, and don’t think for a minute he’s thinking about the great father son relationship we are building on the course. Sure there will be some of that, but I know better. After a great college baseball career he is not playing anymore and he’s looking for another competitive outlet. He’s trying to improve so he can maybe raise his golf game to a level where he can complete in tournaments. And I’m sure he is using our time on the course to get his reps in and to beat up on Dad.
We headed out to Tilden Park and we both had slow starts to our round. As we approached the 8th hole I think we may have been even for the round and I think both of us were wondering when one of us was going to jump ahead and take over the round. We both had good drives on the 8th and as we approached our drives that happened to end up very close together on the fairway I see out of the corner of my eye my Son pumping his fist. At that moment he let me know with no uncertain terms he out drove me, and he was very proud of his one yard advantage over me. Once he calmed down I told him you better be out driving me, our games are going in different directions, but longer drives isn’t everything, you need beat me on this hole. He then proceeded to shank his second shot dead right into the woods...Kids! By the way I out drove him on the 9th hole by 40 yards...Dad’s not done yet.
With most of the rust off of my game I headed to the Mill Valley Golf Course. Established in 1919 this historic jewel is a quirky 9 hole course that has a great casual vibe, and it will test you with some tough holes as well.
Playing here reminded me why I want to continue this journey of mine. At one point I was standing on an elevated tee box looking down at a par 3. It was playing at about 184 yards to the green, to the left and ten yard from the green there was a foursome teeing off on the 6th hole . To the right and 20 yards short of the green a twosome was teeing off on the 9th hole. While studying this narrow widow to shoot through onto a postage stamp size green I notice a family walking with their dog across a bridge that put them right into my line of fire. Watching this bevy of activity below me play itself out before I could take my shot was a great test of patience as well. Once the foursome, twosome, and the family of 3 with their dog cleared the hot zone I fired a five iron at the green.
This type of course management is not unusual for these local older courses, greens and tee boxes are very close together, sometimes you might pass under a tee box while a group is teeing off over your head, and you might be sharing a different tee box with another group, but firing your tee shots in opposite directions. These courses also welcome family strolls along the cart paths adding to the overall unique intimacy you don't get at newer tracks. I can't wait to hit the road!!
It’s good to be back playing some golf and writing about it again, and I look forward to checking in this year from a few historic courses somewhere out there in the US.
See you on the course!