Golf in the Age of Coronavirus

I’ll always remember the week of March 15-21, 2020 as the time when normal went out the window. With the world on edge, my family out of town, and the parameters of my professional work changing by the minute, I had a whole week to myself and lots of time to reflect on what all this rapid change means for my life. Naturally, I turned to golf as a means for sorting through my thoughts and emotions. During the dawn of what feels like a new age, I spent seven straight days exploring what affects the covid19 pandemic is having on my life. The most meaningful of those many hours were the ones I spent on the golf course.

Golf has always been a calming source in my life. Even when I’m playing poorly, the game takes me away from my most weighty stress points. During this week of troubling news cycles, falling stock prices, and intense professional challenges, I was able to retreat to the golf course each afternoon for some of the most cathartic outings of my life. In total, I played 90 holes of golf and by the time I finished the last of them I felt both exhausted and ready to do my job as a father, husband, professional, and writer in the coming months.

This wild week began with me leaving my wife and daughter a few hours away in Pensacola to stay with my in-laws for a few extra days after we all attended a wedding there. What originally was supposed to be a couple of days away turned into an entire week after both my wife’s job and mine slammed the brakes on our normal work schedules. With my family a few hours away, I was left at home to get things in order for what will assuredly be a new normal in the coming weeks. Besides picking up some supplies, working from home, and getting other affairs in order, I spent the remaining hours in search of my center out on the golf course. Thanks to social media, I already had a great system in place for documenting my thoughts through it all.

At the start of this year, I decided to use my Instagram page to share a brief golf story each day. That exercise has been both fun and therapeutic. I have come to treasure the short daily notes as they reflect my experiences in golf in a raw and honest way. I’ve found that those golf stories also have a tendency to connect with my readers and friends in a convenient and rewarding fashion. Some of those stories have come from observations made on the course during the day of the post, but many are the result of memories, theories, and believes I have formed about golf over the years. My posts from this week were a great way to share my takeaways about what golf means in this moment and how it has helped me and surely many others during this strange crisis.

As I was plumbing the depths of the game as part of my week-long walkabout, I spent time connecting with friends(although at a distance), appreciating both good shots and bad, and discovering that my favorite game may just be the perfect prescription for these tumultuous times. Those thoughts and feelings come out in my Instagram posts from the week. With my family now home, I’m taking a break from the course for a few days, but I wanted to put those posts together and provide some additional insights into what I feel was one of the most unique weeks of my adult life.

What follows are the daily accounts of that week and the posts that resulted from the golf I played.

Sunday, March 15

The week began on Sunday afternoon, where I played 18 holes with friends after coming off the road. We played until dark and it was a perfect appetizer for what was to come in the days ahead. My first round of the week was a good reminder that golf can indeed be a great way to combat anxiety by focussing only on what I can control. With the Sun going down and my swing falling into rhythm,  I felt like I was at the start of an important journey inwards.

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Golf Story 74/366: Take a deep breath. Hold it in for a few extra seconds. Exhale and find your center. Stress and anxiety may be all around you but that doesn’t mean you can’t arrive at a state of personal peace. Golf is good for this. A long walk can awaken the soul, especially on the golf course. The repetitive nature of the game has the ability to distract from the pressures of everyday life. There is hope for anyone who is unafraid to become lost in the process of playing golf. Golf is powerful in many ways, most of all because it helps to forget about the pervasive problems that would otherwise dominate your thoughts. We all need to mediate and this beloved pastime is a way of doing that. Golf is a means for quieting the mind. Let the game lead you there. Take a deep breath, hold it in, and slowly exhale. Everything else is just the space between swings. ——————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfmeditation #meditation ##playorperish #brokenteesociety #golfstory

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Monday, March 16

By the time my Monday came to a close, our office had decided to move to a remote working arrangement for the foreseeable future. With many of the events and meetings that we plan as part of my professional life canceled or postponed, the way in which I work was being disrupted, to say the least. As for golf, the debate over whether courses should stay open was quickly heating up. My nine-hole round that night inspired a short acrostic poem on the subject.

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

After a full day of working from home, I slid out to the golf course for our Tuesday night skins game. It felt strange that we were still able to host this weekly outing considering the state of affairs sweeping over our world. To be honest, I felt conflicted. As bad as I wanted to be on the golf course with my friends I also felt a societal obligation to comply with the behavioral changes needed to keep the covid19 virus at bay. Despite those conflicting feelings, we played on. The time on the course that evening inspired a post I was proud of. It also sparked the idea for a video essay that has been very well received.

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Golf Story 76/366: I’m not sure if golf is appropriate right now or not. Regardless of the answer, I’m certainly glad I’ve got the game in my life. The world seems to be emptying out and home has become our newest frontier. It’s hard to know if golf can fit into that equation for the foreseeable future. The challenges of our time dictate that we keep away from one another but golf is best enjoyed with friends. I believe we can still play responsibly together but it feels like that might be a bit selfish. On the contrary, I can do without a great many things, but golf is how I find my center. Unfortunately, it’s starting to feel like something I’ll have to sacrifice soon. I’m not sure what comes next, but I hope golf can still be part of it. I’d hate to lose out on a single day of golf because each time I play I learn some new truth about myself. There are so many ways in which this game has brought peace to my mind and calmness to my soul. Lord knows I need those things right now. Perhaps golf will be there again tomorrow. If not, I’ll have to just play in daydreams. ———————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #playorperish #golflife #golfstory #whyilovethisgame

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

My favorite playing partner is my dog, Leon. I’ve expounded on our golfing relationship many times, but this week it felt important to include him in my outings. With my family out of town, Leon was my closest companion for most of the week. I always encourage my followers and friends to take the dog on the course if they can. That night, Leon and I were joined by another friend and his dog for a walk which was a highly enjoyable experience.

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Golf Story 77/366: Dogs get cabin fever too. There’s no better place to walk the dog than on the golf course. We all want to stretch our legs, imagine if you had four of them! The golf course is an ideal place for enjoying nature, getting some sunshine, and finding composure. Remember how much a walk on the course can help improve your mood. The same can be said for our K9 friends. If your are heading to the course these days, take the dog with you if you can. A happy dog is one of the great joys in life. If the golf course brings you joy, it’s easy to see how it can do the same for your dog. Abide by the rules, show common courtesy and train your pup up well. You’ll both be glad to have more golf in your lives. ————————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfstory #golflife #playorperish #whyilovethisgame

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

When I arrived at the course late Thursday afternoon, I saw that our maintenance staff had pulled the cups up so that they stood a few inches out of the hole. The bunker rakes had also been removed from the course. This trend was sweeping across the golfing world as a way to reduce touches on shared surfaces – a recommendation by some golf organizations for safe play during the pandemic. Seeing this change to the game left me with a strange feeling that things will be different for quite some time.

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Golf Story 78/366: The stock market may be down, but the rounds of golf being played this week are increasingly high. Anxious times persist, but many people want to find comfort on their home course. Economic commentary is particularly loud among the golfing crowds. These are strange times at the country club. The global economy may be slamming on the breaks, but there are still a few bets to be made among friends on the first tee. The remote nature of work and claustrophobic enclosures of home have brought golfers out to get some sun and enjoy the game. Golf is a different these days though. The rakes are gone and the cups are in position to minimize touches. There are also fliers on the pro shop wall to signify that the tournaments have been canceled and member dinners moved from the calendar. Carts are wiped with cleaning solutions and the staff are working lightly. These are golf’s little gestures to help a larger cause. It’s hard to see an end in sight and impossible to make a putt. When will we get back to normal? As Gramps always tells me, “it won’t be as long as it has been.” ————————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfstory #golflife #whyilovethisgame

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Friday, March 20, 2020

For the first five days of the week, I played at my home course – Capital City Country Club. By the time Friday rolled around I was ready for some fresh scenery. Fortunately, a good friend of mine is a member of the new Seminole Legacy Golf Club a few miles down the road. The course is quite a challenge and I’m glad I caught it on a good day. I had one of the best ball-striking rounds in months and walked off the course with a sense that maybe I had found a sharp version of my game again. It was the kind of round I only find a few times per year.

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Golf Story 79/366: Somedays my game clicks into place and the golf just makes sense again. Hell, when I hit it on the screws for 18 holes, the whole world makes sense. It’s funny how golf can make even the strangest of times more joyous. A good long walk and some crisp ball striking is a great prescription for when life gets crazy. In times like these, it’s good to get lost in something we love. Finding that zone isn’t easy, but boy does it make for a good day when I can. I hope to have more good days like that soon. Lord knows I’ll be happy to have some deep level distraction while we all sort through what happens in the months to come. ——————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfstory #playorperish #golflife #whyilovethisgame

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Our club was supposed to have a tournament that day, but we wisely canceled with so much disruption occurring across our community. With time on our hands, twenty or so of us decided to have a small event ourselves – a two-man best-ball competition. Feeling good about my game I liked my odds to win a few bucks, but perhaps the long week finally caught up to me. I played terribly, but the day was not lost as a good friend and fellow competitor had the best round of his life. I saw him have an out of body experience, going birdie-eagle-eagle-birdie on the back nine en route to a score of 67. Like many, he’s got a lot on his mind right now, but as I watched him slip into a state of deep relaxation on the course I was reminded again of the power golf has to improve our mindsets and overall well being. After the round he had, I don’t think he’ll ever see golf the same. The week as a whole had a similar effect on me.

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Golf Story 80/366: We all carry the weight of everyday emotions squarely on our shoulders. However, golf can allow us to forget that pressure from time to time. We worry about our jobs, family, and other heavy matters, but those who play golf can find relief in the game. Golf can transport us. It can lift our hopes. Golf is a way to disperse the weight we carry. Every so often, through golf we can find a higher plane of thinking. Relaxed and without worries, this is the desired mentality. It’s amazing to watch when someone is playing with that capacity. It’s life changing when it happens to us. The hardest thing to shake off in this existence is the dense weight of our worrisome world. Golf is a means for overcoming extenuating forces though. If you can let go, even for a little while, great things will come. ——————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfstory #playorperish #whyilovethisgame

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I hope you enjoyed this recounting of my golf experiences during the strange and unstable times of the covid19 pandemic. This week was one of the weirdest and most enlightening of my life. I wanted to pull all the content I made together into one article so that folks can digest it as they please. Adding some insights to that work in retrospect was also a good way to relive the experience. I’ve got a feeling I’ll want to come back and read all this again myself someday too.

I’m not sure what will happen in the coming months, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to come back to golf as a way to find my center during these trying times. Life may be a bit different and things will certainly be tough, but I believe this wonderful game is well suited to help us all get through it.

Golf is Everywhere – Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Like many golf fans, I’m infatuated with the life of Arnold Palmer. There is so much about his story that I find interesting, inspiring, and thought-provoking. I never had an opportunity to meet the King, but it is hard not to feel like I have a relationship with his brand – a feeling shared by millions no doubt. Palmer’s larger than life persona, outgoing disposition, and insistence on treating people with a high level of respect are all qualities I strive to emulate. As someone who has spent a career studying brands and placemaking, I’m also highly interested in how Palmer extended his personality into the businesses and experiences which bore his name. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see that side of his legacy up close and personal when I was invited to spend a day at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.

My invitation to Bay Hill was largely by accident. While visiting the Orlando area for the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show I had scheduled a variety of meetings and hangouts with some of my favorite golf personalities. One of which was a nine-hole walk with Tom Coyne at the fabled Winter Park Golf Course. Unfortunately, Tom never made it out to the course because he came down with the flu and had to make a quick return trip home to Philadelphia. As much as I hated to hear that Tom was under the weather, he was kind enough to suggest I take his place at another golf outing scheduled for later that day.

At Tom’s suggestion, I was invited to fill in for him at Bay Hill for a round of golf with Roy Saunders. Saunders is Vice President at the club, father to PGA Tour player Sam Saunders, and also Arnold Palmer’s son-in-law through his marriage to Palmer’s daughter Amy. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to see Bay Hill and get to know Saunders over a round of golf.

One of the most noticeable qualities of the Bay Hill Club & Lodge is the hospitality extended to guests. It is obvious that the Arnold Palmer mentality is not just a talking point but a true compass for the staff at the club. From the minute I walked on the property I was treated like a lifelong member and that is undoubtedly a reason why people still visit Bay Hill even after Palmer’s passing. Many clubs could learn from the example set at Bay Hill.

Staring down the final green at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge

During my visit, the championship golf course at Bay Hill was in spectacular condition. Being only a month and a half out from the PGA Tour’s annual Arnold Palmer Invitational, the preparations for the event were well underway. With grandstands up, scoreboards being installed, and other infrastructure being brought in there was a real sense of pride permeating over the grounds. Throughout the round, Roy Saunders provided me with an insider’s perspective on how the club hosts its most important event. It was a cold and windy day for golf, but the good company and first-hand knowledge of the course from my host made for an exceptional outing.

Beyond the wonderful hospitality and energy of an upcoming PGA Tour event, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the golf course itself. Originally designed by Dick Wilson, the Bay Hill course has some exceptional holes that provide for both drama and charm. The holes routed among the natural lakes on the property are among some of the most interesting in the Sunshine State. The Dick Wilson routing remains largely intact but there have been many renovations overseen by the Arnold Palmer Design Company over the years. The course is both challenging and scenic with plenty of opportunities to create memorable shots by playing boldly – just like the Kind prescribed.

Sitting at Arnold Palmer’s desk in his office at Bay Hill

After our round, my host was kind enough to invite me up to Arnold Palmer’s office and sign the King’s guest book. I must admit, the fan in me was overjoyed as I had the chance to sit at Palmer’s desk and affix my signature next to many other admiring members of Arnie’s Army. Looking around the room from behind Palmer’s desk served as a reminder for just how big his global reach was and still is. It was a special way to cap off my visit to Bay Hill.

With a new appreciation for Bay Hill and the legacy of its former owner, I’m excited to watch the worlds best compete in the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year. There is no doubt that Roy Saunders, the Palmer family, and everyone involved at the club will be putting on a first-class event and the story of the King will once again be on full display. I’ve been fortunate to have some great golf experiences in my life and getting to see Bay Hill and the world of Arnold Palmer as a guest of his family was among the more memorable days I’ve had in the game. If you get the opportunity to enjoy some time at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge I highly suggest you do so.

Cheers and long live the King!

-J

P.S.

If you make it to Bay Hill, don’t miss the Bay window chili at the turn! It’s the best golf course chili I’ve ever sampled!

The Arnold Palmer statue behind the first tee at Bay Hill Club & Lodge

 

 

 

 

Golf is Everywhere – Pinehurst #3

One of the most enjoyable rounds of golf I played in 2019 was at the often overlooked Pinehurst #3 course. While visiting the North Carolina Sandhills on assignment for The Golfer’s Journal, I had the opportunity to venture out and see some of the great courses that make the area so special. Because Pinehurst and the Sand Hills region is such a hub for golf activity, I was able to play with a wonderful assortment of good friends who had gathered there for various reasons. We took on Pinehurst #3 late one afternoon and played as a seven-some. It was a highly enjoyable experience that provided further evidence as to why the Pinehurst Resort is among the best places for golf in the United States.

Over the past decade, the Pinehurst Resort has undergone some incredible upgrades to its long storied collection of golf experiences. Among the most notable enhancements are the restoration of Pinehurst #2, the renovation of Pinehurst #4, the newly added Thistle Dhu putting course, and the creation of the Cradle Short Course. With all of those efforts gaining so much attention it is easy to see how an impressive overhaul of the #3 course could get lost in the coverage.

Pinehurst #3 is an original Donald Ross design that has been altered in a variety of ways throughout its existence. Said to be among his favorite works in the area, the #3 course still maintains much of the original Ross routing. Despite many changes over time, some holes were carved off to create the #5 course while others were lost to resort expansion, the course still has a ton of golden age charm. Now, after an extensive renovation led by architect Kye Goalby the Sand Hills aesthetic has been brought back and the course once again has a strong and attractive identity within the resort.

Finishing up at Pinehurst #3

As the shortest of the resort’s 18 hole courses, Pinehurst #3 is perfectly tailored for a fast-paced round of golf with friends. At just over 5,000 yards long and with a par of 68, the #3 course is reminiscent of some Brittish courses that don’t adhere to the more standardized scales of modern golf. Don’t be fooled by the small ballpark appearance though. With difficult greens, tight lies, native sand areas, and many dogleg holes, #3 still can pack a punch.

Built over an attractive hilly terrain and offering many delightful Donald Ross features, Pinehurst #3 makes for a great add-on round during a visit to the resort. With six par 3 holes on the course, a good day of ball striking is required to score well there and the course serves as a great introduction to play the more famous tracks on site.  In my estimation, a visit to the resort would be incomplete without spending a few hours tackling the #3 course.

To get a more full picture of the Pinehurst #3 experience, take a few minutes to enjoy the latest installment from my Golf is Everywhere Youtube series. With seven friends playing such a fun course, my afternoon there made for a few good memories and a real desire to come back soon. I think you’ll enjoy the scenes I captured from the round while gaining some insight into why the course is a must-play at the resort.

Shoutout to my friends Dave Baysden, Joe Zwickl, and Robbie Wooten along with others for recommending the course and making the walk so enjoyable.

Cheers,

-J

Golf is Everywhere – Palatka Golf Club

 

Some of my favorite golf course discoveries have been in small towns and obscure places. The Palatka Golf Club certainly fits that bill. Located about an hour south of Jacksonville, the small town of Palatka is home to a community golf course that has a curious story and a big personality.

Founded in 1925, the Palatka Golf Club has a wonderful golden age routing that falls over a delightfully hilly piece of property. The club proudly celebrates Donald Ross as its designer, but many historians and golf architecture aficionados have called that into question. Palatka is one of many golf courses around the country and a handful in Florida whose claim to be an original Ross design is a bit questionable. There is significant evidence that the architect may have actually been fellow Scotsman W.D. Clark, but the locals in Palatka are quick to dismiss that idea.

I have long heard about how enjoyable the golf was in Palatka and have also followed the story of its unproven design lineage. Earlier this year, I finally got the chance to make it over to Palatka to see the course for myself. What I found is a fabulous golf experience that packs a large amount of interest into a small package.

Coming in at just under 6,000 yards, the course looks far more getable than it really is. Small greens with great contours make for a real challenge and the land movement throughout the routing is highly unique for Florida. What I walked away with from Palatka was a big smile and a strong desire to come back soon. If you are anyone you know is traveling through Northeast Florida, the Palatka Golf Club is worth going to see and play. I believe that there is something special about the place regardless of who gets the credit for the course design.

If you want to see more from my day at Palatka Golf Club, then check out the latest episode of my Golf is Everywhere show on Youtube. If you enjoy what you find there then please be sure to subscribe to my channel so you never miss an episode! 

Cheers,

-J

Golf is Everywhere – Tobacco Road

I fell in love with quite a few places in 2019, but nowhere has left as deep an impression on my golfing soul as Tobacco Road Golf Club. I spent the better part of six months working on a special project for The Golfer’s Journal in which we documented the history of this remarkable place. That story appeared in issue #10 of The Golfer’s Journal and included a companion podcast(see  below) featuring recordings of Tobacco Road’s designer, the late great Mike Strantz. While I was visiting the course for my story, I took a lot of video, but didn’t want to share it until after the piece had published in the magazine. Now that the story has been out in the world for a few weeks, I thought it would be great to share the video as part of my Golf is Everywhere series on Youtube.

I can’t think of a better way to close out 2019, then to share my video essay from Tobacco Road. The course, its designer, and certainly its owners and staff have had a huge impact on me and my writing career this year. That being said, I’m happy to share this latest video. Give it a watch when you can and if you haven’t had a chance to subscribe to my Youtube channel, I hope you will!

Cheers,

-J

Golf is Everywhere – Tobacco Road

The Golfer’s Journal Podcast – The Lost Strantz Tapes

 

 

Golf is Everywhere

Golf in the Yard by Dave Baysden

Sometimes when I daydream
I lose myself in thoughts
About how everyday places
Could easily become golf holes.

The park out my office window
with the naturally sloping terrain
Is the perfect place for pitch shots
beneath the skyline of the city.

There’s a field of golden farmland
I pass while driving at dusk
To my parents house for dinner
That should be a short par four.

When I walk down the beach
With my daughter in the sand
I ponder putting by the sea as
She climbs dunes on the shore.

When I stroll through the woods
During the cold months of winter
The tree-lined paths I hike on
Look like fairways in my mind.

The hillside by the highway
Where the old fence line stands
Has windblown bunkers guarding
A ridge that could be a green.

There is the quiet cove at the lake
Near the house I frequently visit
With a crested knoll on an isthmus
That is a par three shaped by God.

Beyond the asphalt runway
Of the airport I often fly from
There are gentle hills that roll
Over land clearly made for golf.

The steeples of the churches
In my old and quaint hometown
Would make a perfect aim point
For a par five down Main Street.

Then there’s the winding stream
Which flows where I used to fish
While wondering what kind of shot
It would take to clear the bend.

On my way home from work
In a well lit square downtown
sits a perfect patch of grass
Where I could probably play at night.

I even make holes at my house
When I mow the lawn on Mondays
following around the flower beds
which my wife keeps finely pruned.

The places I imagine playing
Are merely figments in my mind
Which I conjure up for pleasure
Because for golf, I have no time.

Life won’t lend me the freedom
To spend my days out on the course
So I see holes all around me
Which may very well be worse.

Perhaps I’m just plain crazy
And the game has made me so
But I find some comfort knowing
That golf is everywhere I go.

How to Travel for Golf – thoughts on where to go, how to be there, and what to remember.

The Swilcan Bridge by Dave Baysden

To be a golfer is to be a wanderer and that is my identity. The game is, at its very essence, a walkabout through the fields, forests, towns, and dunes of the world. For that reason, a golfer’s soul yearns to journey. As a golfer, my thirst for adventure is unquenchable.

For those like me who are inflicted with such a love for the game, one foot will always be compelled to follow the other. Each round of golf creates a longing for the next. In my mind there lies an uncontrollable urge to stray and a sense that each new course needs to be further from home than the last.

The golfer is a traveler and an explorer. No destination will ever satisfy the desire to see another. I am a golfer and I am increasingly compelled to roam.

The passages of golf books become the places that yield sunburns on my skin. Reading about distant lands isn’t enough to cure my curiosity though. I have to see it with my own eyes and play the course with clubs in tow.

There is a brilliant sun shining on the fairways in my mind and if I can muster up a willingness to set forth I can find that warmth in living color.  When presented with the opportunity to travel for golf, I exhaust every means to make it happen.

That being said, to reach an awareness of the available adventures in the sport is to suffer madness. This comes from the knowledge that I’ll never be able to experience them all.

Which brings me to the following passages.

No golf traveler is alike, yet there is a kinsmanship found among those of us who spend hours searching out the next stop on the journey. Opinions on courses, clubs, and destinations for golf will vary, making it important to remember that the objective of traveling is to form your own. Every course in the world has something to offer the golfer on the move, but how can one best discern what to seek out next?

For that question, I offer you these thoughts.

Where to go…

Go in search of great walks.

Not every golf course can be walked, but those most worthy of your time will be of the variety you explore on foot. The game was meant for walking and the best golf in the world will always be that which is tailored to such methods of play. When traveling, the walks should actually be the reason for the trip. Golf is just an excuse to go for the hike. Take these considerations to mind when evaluating where you’d like to walk next.

Seek out an understanding of architecture.

Architecture is the field in which art and science meet. The designing of golf courses is consistent with that truth. Golf course architects are both artist and engineer. No two sites for golf are the same and every architect has a different lens on the world, therefore each individual course is a separate and unique expression of those who built it. The seasoned golf traveler is keen to this and through earned knowledge of the subject one can find a greater appreciation for all aspects of the game. The study of a course’s design should be a leading factor in choosing where to play.

Account for the history of a place.

History provides the context for how a place came to be. Strive to be a traveler who wonders why things are a certain way and you’ll find history has the answers. When traveling to a new golf course, a review of its history should always be the appetizer before the main course of playing there. Golf has long been a game with a reverence for its roots and an appreciation of its past. Many clubs and courses offer visitors the chance to learn their story and others can be found through simple research. To not seek such details is to willingly avoid the full experience. Not every great course has a long history, but those that do often offer a more interesting destination.

Consider the available accommodations.

The place in which you lay your head should never be an afterthought. Some locations offer luxurious quarters while others are more spartan, but I would suggest proximity to places of interest as a more pressing need. Look for lodging that serves as a window into the community or perhaps a room located on-site that may yield additional time spent at the course. The hotel by the highway may suffice for bedding and such, but a better experience can be found at the course cabin, bed & breakfast, or charming hotel downtown. Where you stay will dictate where you eat, where you drink, and where you roam while visiting a place for golf. With that in mind, be sure to choose wisely and aim for places that increase the odds of serendipitous discoveries and a better understanding of the destination.

The Aiken Golf Club by Dave Baysden

Making a decision on where to go is only the first step. There is also the matter of being in a place.  How does one compose themselves when traveling for golf and what should you be looking for?

These are my recommendations.

How to be there…

Observe the presentation of the golf course.

Golf courses are works of art constructed on a medium of grass. With a live and growing canvass, the state of a golf course is always in flux. Knowing this the golf traveler should make sure to appreciate the state of the course. The superintendent whose role it is to oversee the presentation of the playing surface is often times the unsung hero of the golf world. The agronomists that maintain the turf are essential to every pleasant golf experience and the traveler should take note of the conditions that were carefully arranged for them. Be sure to thank the agronomy staff should your paths cross while playing.

Speak with those who work there.

To best understand a place, one must speak with those who tend to it. The staff members of any golf facility are the keepers of valuable information and important details. Some professionals will offer delightful details about a golf course unsolicited, but others may require the spark of conversation. Engaging with staff is a wonderful way to make a new acquaintance while also seeking out the best ways to enhance your visit. Present yourself and your questions with a genuine curiosity and often times you will be rewarded with local tips, unique stories, or perhaps even a tour. These are the interactions that often lead to repeat visits and intimate discoveries during your stay. Travelers need not be shy, the staff is there to answer your questions and ensure you have a great day at the course.

Cater to the customs of the regulars.

When visiting a club or course it is best to try and enjoy the facilities in the same manner as the regulars do. Whether you are an invited guest or simply paired with strangers, be sure to yield to the resident customs. There may be a particular game you will be asked to join or perhaps the norm is to play from a closer tee box than you are accustomed, either way – go with the flow. Those who play there the most likely know how to play it for max enjoyment and as a traveler that should be your aim as well. You never know, by following the regulars you might just find something worth changing in your own golf routine.

Look for where the locals go.

When traveling for golf, the time spent on the course is only part of the trip. There should be dining, shopping, sightseeing, and other exploratory activities on the itinerary. Some research before your travel is critical, but more importantly, ask the locals where they like to go. More times than not the best places in town will be those which the residents frequent. This also holds true for golf. Be sure to save some time in your travels for the course you didn’t expect to play. A local recommendation can make for a splendid emergency 9 holes or a quick round before heading home. Ask around for advice on all counts of your trip and allow for pleasant surprises.

The Cliffs by Dave Baysden

The trip doesn’t end on the final green or even when you put the clubs back in your garage. Some trips never really end at all. The best travels are the kind which are permanently extended in our memories. The trips that change how we see things become chapters in our ever-evolving story.

Here are my recommendations on how to maximize the impacts of your travel.

What to remember…

Document your days spent away from home.

There has never been an easier time in history to chronicle your observations from traveling. Technology allows us to record the details of our trips via a wide variety of social media, applications, and other means. Of course, there is always the more traditional route of handwritten journal entries or even blogging. No matter your preferred method, be sure to take some time each day of your trip and make a few notes on what you have seen. There is great joy to be found in recounting your travels while reading the details of days gone past.

Take time to reflect on your experiences.

In many ways, golf is a meditation. Arranging your thoughts from a golf trip is a healthy way to find some peaceful appreciation for what you have seen. Beyond the time you spend on the golf course, it is important to set aside some moments for the quiet contemplation of your experience. It is in those minutes, spent reflecting on your trip, in which clarity can emerge in your thinking. Often times, I have found that my most meaningful takeaways from golf travel occur long after the initial experience has happened. Through a deliberate search of my thoughts, I find new ways of seeing the places that I visited months or years before.

Tell your friends about where you went.

Sharing the stories of your golf travels is an important part of being an explorer in our game. Please note, this is not an invitation to display braggadocious behavior. Your aim should be to provide valuable insights into the places you have been. Be a guide to those who may want to set forth on their own discovery someday. Do not instruct them, but instead offer some seeds from which they can grow their own ideas and opinions. Discussing a trip with those you shared it with or others who saw the same place on another occasion is one of the great joys of golf.

Contemplate how the trip has changed your perspective.

The best travels are the ones that change how you see the world. For golfers, that can occur in a wide variety of ways. Perhaps a course has shifted your thoughts on a particular architect or maybe a previously undiscovered golf culture made you swoon for a new city. The possibilities are as endless as your list of courses yet to be seen. The notes you write, the conversations you have, and the memories you make while traveling for golf all add up to shape your unique perspective on the game. When you think you have finally landed on a set of beliefs about golf then it’s time to hit the road again. The next course may just be the one that changes your mind forever. The only way to know is to go and once you’ve been, only you can determine what it all meant.

Kiawah River by Dave Baysden

Traveling for golf is a means for replenishing my soul. The game has always had a hold on me and with each trip I take I find new inspiration for living life as a golfist. Some places speak to me more than others, but with each new stop along the way, I find small traces of the games deeper meaning. For me, traveling for golf is a transcendent pursuit.

So my charge to you, my fellow golf traveler, is this – go forth and seek out the courses that call your name. Find the time to venture for golf and be sure to savor each step. Seek out stories, architects, history, and new scenery. Search for the places that will shape you for the better and never stop discovering what the game can mean in your life. There are many people who share your passion for golf and the best way to find them is to start looking wherever you may roam. Golf is a grand adventure, but it’s up to us to take it.

I hope to see you out there on fairways near and far.

How I Learned to Play Faster Golf – an evening with Ran Morrissett

GCA founder Ran Morrissett sets the pace at Southern Pines Golf Club

 

You can learn a lot about someone by playing golf with them. The ways in which a person conducts themselves on a golf course is a window into their character. Golf provides an ample display of one’s disposition and playing with others is an invitation to question our own comportment. Every so often, I have been graced with the chance to play golf with someone who challenges my assumptions and provides a model for how I might improve my own outlook on the game. Ran Morrissett is one such person.

Ran Morrissett is the founder and proprietor of Golf Club Atlas. CGA, as it is commonly called, is a website made for the study and discussion of golf course architecture.  Instituted in the early days of the internet, GCA has become the go-to place for golfers to gain a deeper appreciation for the design of the best courses in the world. I have been a fan and message board member for a few years now and Ran’s writing and opinions on golf are among my favorite things to read. When the opportunity arose for me to travel to his home town near Pinehurst, North Carolina, I reached out to Ran to see if he may be available to talk some golf.

Ran is the kind of gentleman golfer with whom I find great delight in sharing a conversation. He is well-traveled and fluent in the language of the game. These attributes became apparent upon my arrival at his home for our afternoon appointment. Ran was kind enough to take me up on having a chat and he extended me a sincere and warm greeting. Ran suggested an itinerary for the evening that included a few holes of golf and some dinner. I was thrilled to join him for both and it turned out to be quite the learning experience.

After a tour of his home and a brief walkthrough of GCA world headquarters, Ran and I loaded into his car and headed for his favorite golf hang – the Southern Pines Golf Club. On the ride over, he gave me some backstory on Southern Pines and its current state. The club has a rich history. Donald Ross designed its first nine holes in 1906 and eventually expanded the golf there to include 36 holes. Only 18 remain in play today. The club is owned by the local Elks lodge which at one time made for steady traffic and a healthy level of revenues. Today,  the club is dealing with the many effects of the ever-changing golf market.

When Ran and I pulled up to the club I could immediately sense the aging of the place. In many ways, it reminded me of my home club. Time had moved on, but the club stayed behind. The large hulking and empty Elks lodge casts a shadow on the first tee and serves as a monument to days gone by. Beyond the parking lot and the lodge, the property falls away into a pine forest that is populated with rolling hills. It is over those slopes that the routing of Donald Ross and the many charms of Southern Pines comes alive. It’s the perfect place for Ran to have a hit in the fading sunlight of the Sandhills each day

After checking in we were joined on the first tee by the delightful Chris Buie. Chris is one of the great resident writers and historians of the Pinehurst area. He also serves as Ran’s regular playing partner at Southern Pines. Between the two of them, they figure to have logged a few thousand holes played under the evening sun there.

The preferred game for Ran and Chris is a fast-paced walk around the course. The score is largely irrelevant. Some nights they may only play a handful of holes, but most times they aim for around twelve. It is just enough golf to get some exercise and have a well-rounded conversation between the swings. For me to join them in this ritual was a great treat.

To say that Ran and Chris play briskly is an understatement. Even as a seasoned walker, I found myself having to adjust my pace to keep up. I would classify their methods as “reactionary” golf. The process of each shot was short and decisions were made quickly. Approach the ball, pull a club, swing, then start walking. It’s that simple.

The way in which these gentlemen play is sporty and is in keeping with the traditions of the game in the United Kingdom. That can be attributed to the amount of time these gents have spent pursuing golf experiences around the globe. As Ran told me, “In other golfing nations the pace just isn’t an issue.” Playing quickly is just common courtesy. “Nobody wants to see folks take two minutes over a three-foot putt. Just hit it and keep moving.” During the course of our time together at Southern Pines, it occurred to me that this was a mindset worth emulating.

If I conjure an honest assessment of my game, I have to admit that my pace is often too slow. Perhaps it is due to the lingering effects of my junior golf career and all the crap I got fed about pre-shot routines and other manners of dragging on. Then again, it may just be that my inner demons won’t allow me to carry as quickly as I should. Either way, my pace has been and remains something I must work on.

My conversion back into a walking golfer these past few years has helped a great deal. If you are the lone walker in a group that reality necessitates you play fast enough to keep up. My pace has steadily improved, but it was my evening with Ran Morrissett that allowed me to see what I should be aiming for.

As we ventured around the course that evening I became intoxicated by the rhythm that we were enjoying together. This was a pace in which many of the game’s best aspects were made more readily enjoyable. For Ran and Chris, the golf being played was secondary to the pleasure of the walk with good company over a stunning layout.

There were times during my walk with Ran and Chris that I felt myself falling behind. Those guys really flew around the course. To tell the truth, It made me feel a bit inadequate. I can certainly see how newcomers to the game may feel completely lost in such a dizzying pace, but that was not an excuse that I had any room to enjoy. As a seasoned player, I needed to be better and as I watched my playing partners, I picked up on a number of customs that could easily be transferred to my own game.

The key to keeping up with Ran and Chris was to never stop moving. They showed me what is possible if you go to play with the intent of moving quickly around the course. For those of you wondering how this might play out in your own game, it means three things:

  1. Be ready to hit as soon as it is your turn
  2. Once you start putting don’t stop until you hole out
  3. If you lose a ball, drop one and keep playing quickly

Thanks to Ran and Chris, I found a strategy to improve my pace of play while having more fun on the course. The pace of play in golf continues to be a hot topic in the game and with today’s ever-growing social media conversations, there seems to be real momentum for speeding play across the globe. That is a good thing. For many years I shrugged when my friends commented about my pace because I didn’t believe them. “Surely it isn’t me,” I thought. But guess what – it was. Like anything else in life, I had to want to change if I ever hoped to improve.

By the time I arranged my meetup with Ran and round of golf with him and Chris, I was already on the path to improvement. They helped further my education and ever since I have made serious headway in reducing my round times. With a hard-working wife and rambunctious toddler at home, I need to gain back all the time I can. It’s still a work in progress, but I like where things are headed.

When Ran, Chris, and I finished our round at Southern Pines we scurried over to a local pub for some beers and a meal. For a guy like me, I could sit there and listen to their tales of golf trips all night. However, much like the way they play golf, dinner was straight to the point. We enjoyed every second together, but we all had other things to get to. That’s the kind of golf I try to play more of these days. Fun, faster, freewheeling, and far from caring about too much about the score.

I’m not sure we will ever see that kind of pace catch on across the entirety of the American golf landscape, but it is an idea worth spreading. The concept of playing quickly is something golf and the folks who play it all need to embrace. I’m still working on it, but it feels good to play faster. For those who may need a lesson in picking up the pace, I suggest stopping into Southern Pines some evening and see if you can keep up with Ran and Chris.

 

 

 

A Simple Game for Troubled Times

Life is hard and so is golf. I suppose that makes it odd that I use one to escape the other. When things get overwhelming, I always look for my clubs and a good long walk to save me from myself and the world around me.  I run to the golf course in an effort to create separation between me and whatever might be troubling my mind. I have found peace through playing alone, but it is when I play with others that I discover just how wonderful people are to be around. It is in those moments when the problems of our lives are put on the shelf that I find great joy in being with my fellow man. Golf is a game meant to bring people together and god knows we need more of that these days.

The world we know today is filled with difficulty and unrest. Things don’t quite seem right and I think we can all feel that change is needed. The news stories we find on our timelines and TV screens seem to get worse each week. Shootings at home, tensions abroad, and a never-ending stream of disagreement among political factions are all symptoms of the same problem. We have lost our ability to treat each other with respect and dignity.  In these troubling times, we need to forge new ways for people to find one another and enjoy our common traits. For this reason, I believe we could all use a little more golf in our lives.

Despite the occasionally grim realities of our time, hope has not been lost. The good people still outnumber the bad and if history tells us anything, we will someday find solutions to sort all this madness out. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but in order to make a course correction, we have to learn to be around each other again. In my experience, that is exactly what golf offers the world.

Golf is a means for spending time with your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. Our game has always been intended as a pastime and today we need social agreements like this in the worst of ways. I have known many truths about golf over the years and the greatest of these is that because the game strips us of our differences, it opens a window to create new and lasting relationships.

Golf offers those who play it the chance to see others as fellow travelers on the same journey. Golf reminds us of our shared struggle and connects us through a camaraderie which only our agonizing game can create. On the golf course, we all have much more in common then our backgrounds and beliefs would allow us to appreciate. To put it simply, we are all just trying to move the ball down the fairways of life and golf serves as a way to see that truth.

This past weekend, when greeted with another morning of disturbing headlines, I picked up the phone and called my parents. In that call, I invited my dad to come over and play golf with me. We made some plans for a quick nine holes and dinner afterward at the house. Perhaps it was because the horrifying stories of another mass shooting got me thinking about my family, or maybe I just wanted to see my folks, but either way, I set up some time for golf and I sure am glad I did.

Dad and I have had our differences over the years. Sometimes they have been over politics and on other occasions, it may have just been family issues. Our relationship is great these days and golf is a meaningful way to spend time with him. When he and mom got to my house, I took him up to the course for a brisk evening walk before dinner. With my dog at our side, we walked nine holes under a brilliant summer sunset.

During our round, we spoke about the joy my daughter has brought us both, my budding career, his pending retirement, and other matters of interest to the two of us. No debates, no bother, just a father and son connecting on the course. The walk was splendid and our dinner afterward was delightful. Having my family sit down at the dinner table and enjoy a meal and conversation was exactly what I needed after a weekend filled with bad national news. As my parents left for the night, I couldn’t help but think how wonderful the time together had been. It made me consider how fortunate we all are to have each other. I was also reminded of how much the world could use the kind of fellowship Dad and I shared on the course that night.

Spending time playing with Dad and enjoying a nice dinner with my family left me with a peaceful feeling. When I woke up the next morning to start my week, I felt a renewed hope for a better world. Imagine what more of that feeling could do for us all. 

Having golf in my life has granted me an improved mental state and more stable relationships. Through the years, golf has taught me how to build new friendships and rekindle old ones. The game has shown me how to overcome my prejudices and led me to build upon my best qualities. Golf has saved my life on more than one occasion and it has unquestionably made me a better man.

I don’t have all the solutions to the world’s problems, but I do know this – if we can all commit to spending time with one another in search of our better angels then things will certainly improve. To do that, we need systems that allow for a certain kind of nearness with the ones we love, folks we know, and even those we disagree with. Golf is one of those systems.

I want to play more golf because the game makes me feel better about myself and the world around me. It’s therapeutic and it activates the best of my thoughts. I believe that to be true of others who play as well. Beyond self-improvement, golf gives us enough time together to see how much we have in common. If I can make a commitment to playing more golf with my family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors then perhaps I can have a small impact on the world.

Our times may be troubled, but we have to avoid the convenience of isolation. We must choose to lean in and engage with one another. I propose that we spend less time in the bowels of the internet and more time crossing paths on the fairways and greens of the local golf course. Golf can be a mechanism for change and it starts with those of us who play the game deciding to bring more people into it.

The world may be in peril and the situations of our daily existence often seem dire, but there are still means for bridging our divides. My preferred method involves a small white ball and club with which to hit it. The pursuit of this game has always been a path to my best self and if a lost soul like me can find a way to improve so might others. So the next time you read a bad headline or experience a tense moment in your day, think of someone you know who may be in need of nine holes and a walk with a friend. Go play golf and remember all the things right with the world and with the people in it. The game we love is a simple one, yet its impacts on those who play it can be profound. Golf can’t solve all our problems, but it is certainly a good place to start. 

 

 

Into the Mystic – hangovers, metaphysics, and the round of my life on the Kiawah Island Ocean Course

Artwork by Dave Baysden

The hangover was a serious problem. I felt it as soon as the alarm went off and it hit me right between the eyes. Reaching for a glass of water by my bed, I climbed out of another hazed awakening in the rental condo that was ground zero for my golf vacation. Our annual guys trip always makes for a few tough mornings, but that day was the worst yet. We had a high noon tee time on the hardest course in America and my head felt like I had been kicked by a mule. 

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort has one hell of a reputation. It hosted and roasted the best players in the world during both the 1991 Ryder Cup and the 2012 PGA Championship. From the tips, it boasts the highest course and slope rating combination in all of America. Architect Pete Dye carved the course out of the South Carolina coast, creating a Molotov cocktail of sand, water, and wind. From its debut in the Ryder Cup matches to everyday resort guest play, the Ocean Course has been dismantling golfers for nearly three decades. Trust me when I say that trying to tackle such a place while battling the demons of the night before is ill-advised. 

The steady decline of my alcohol tolerance had been brought on by my rapid acceleration into marriage, fatherhood, and life in my early thirties. I am reminded of this each time I travel with our gang. As I shuffled my way through a muddled morning routine it became increasingly evident that I may be trading birdie putts for blowing chunks on the Ocean Course. It was a terrible feeling. 

The first time I played the Ocean Course was on my honeymoon. It was a glorious day with my new bride and I loved the golf course, but my game was not up for the test. I’ll never forget how much the wind blew my shots around while inflating my score that afternoon. I spent four years dreaming of a redemption round and as that tee time finally approached I was laid up on a couch watching the ceiling spin. 

The heat index was creeping up on triple digits as we pulled up to the bag drop and the stiff wind made it feel like we were under a hairdryer. I was headed for sweaty mess territory, but I had to press on. If I bailed on our group of fifteen guys I’d never live down the shame. The only way through that black hole was straight on to the other side. 

After consuming an anecdote of Gatorade, Aleve, and CBD oils,  I managed to make it to the driving range for a warm-up session. That’s where I met Mike, my looper for the day. We made some small talk and he chuckled as guys were giving me hell for my obvious struggles. The ball was flying all over the place and the pounding headache made it hard to find any rhythm at all. The sun was straight above our heads and I was sinking low as we boarded the transport to the first tee. 

Nausea did seem to displace the nerves at least. I remembered the first hole well and I asked Mike to hand me a hybrid to start the day. “I need to ease into this thing,” I told him. With a deep breath and a slow turn, I sent the ball on its way. Through my squinting stare I watched the shot sail out in front of our group and I found the first of many fairways that day. I grabbed another water and prayed that I could repeat that move a few more times. Luckily someone was listening. 

The bogey-bogey start was less than impressive, but I felt like the ball was going where I wanted. On the third hole, I faced dire straits when my approach bounded over the buried boxcar green. I needed an up and down to get a par on the board but my wedge game was feeling less than great. “Let me see that putter Mike.” My caddie companion obliged and from twenty feet off the green I rolled the ball up to within a snuggly distance to the pin. It was just the spark I needed. Mike gave me a nudge of encouragement and we pressed on. 

Somehow I was able to string together a series of par saves that included a wide variety of results. I putted from off the green a few more times to kick in range and even managed to clip the pin on an overcooked bunker shot. I knew that the scores were being authored by a shaky hand, but somehow they kept coming in at par. I was managing my game and my condition about as well as I could have hoped for. There was no way to know what would happen next.

The wind continued to intensify as we walked up to the ninth hole. It was blowing something fierce and through the clouds of my mental state, I recognized the prevailing winds from my first time on the course. As my playing partners sized up their challenges I stood on a hill facing the same shot I had four years prior. That’s when I heard a faint voice whisper “Ride the wind.” I’m not sure if it was Bagger Vance, Shivas Irons, James Earl Jones, or God, but something told me what to do and suddenly I was overcome with calmness. The peaceful feeling was unlike anything I’ve ever felt on a golf course. 

I focused on the shot at hand and made a mighty swing of a six iron. The ball climbed high up against the gusting wind to form a towering draw. I could see the flight pattern illuminate before me and the ball nestled to within ten feet of the cup. I missed the putt, but when we climbed into the shuttle for the tenth tee I became convinced that I had just unlocked some new form of my highest potential. 

If you have ever found this feeling before you will know what I mean, but if not you may think I’m nuts. My mind was entering into what felt like a trance. I had experienced this before, but it is rare and I never know how long it will last. On a day when my body was ready to give up on me, my mind found the extra gear I needed. Dare I say it, but I was in the zone. 

The ensuing back nine was a bit of a blur. Facing 30 + mile per hour winds I was sliding into some sort of hypnotic state. There was chaos all around me as my playing partners were losing their balls and their patience, but I barely saw them. Mike was there with me for yardages, but in hindsight, I don’t remember a word he said along the way. While my friends were battling the course, I felt like I had found the cheat codes to a video game. 

Then the putter got hot. 

After a series of swings that set me up for scoring, I made birdie putts at 11 and 12 while nearly clipping a “turkey”- three in a row, at the 13th. The cup was starting to look like a basketball hoop and on each stroke I saw my immediate future. I could visualize my arms raised and a confident fist pump gesture following another holed putt. All I had to do was let it happen and I did. 

In those moments my hands weren’t my hands. In my mind, I was Seve Ballesteros. There was new and radiant energy emitting from my body as I glided from shot to shot. The feeling was euphoric. 

At the 14th hole, we turned our backs to the wind and began the home stretch march to the clubhouse. I could sense that the round still had much to give. There was more joy yet to come and it was predetermined to be my day. Despite a bogey, I rebounded by pouring in par putts at the 15th and 16th to keep the momentum alive. As I walked over the dune to the difficult 17th hole I found myself wandering in and out of consciousness. The everyday noise that stifles my thoughts had gone silent and at that moment I was one with the game. 

From the tee box, I could see the ocean to my right. The waves were crashing up and down the beach and the timing of it all acted like a metronome in my mind. Perched on the horizon was the stately clubhouse with a series of flags waving at a frantic pace. This would be the site of another special moment. I unleashed the smoothest of swings and the ball carried dutifully towards the flag. It landed in the center green and careened off a slope towards the hole. I walked up to the green knowing I would make the putt. 

In the pond between the dunes and the green, there was the largest alligator I’ve ever seen in my life. My confidence had reached such a level that  I felt like I could ride him in the same fashion as the mechanical bull I vanquished the night before. Everything was in slow motion and once again the people playing with me disappeared. The putt slid slightly down the hill and found the center of the cup. I stuck my putter in the air and turned my attention to the finale. 

Mike the caddie pointed to the left side of the clubhouse and said, “put her right there and let it ride.” I just nodded at him with a quiet affirmation. Like many swings that day, I made a pass at the ball that resulted in something magical. The cut spin on the shot was shaping the ball flight perfectly into the fairway and I looked back at my caddie as if the day would never end. Unfortunately, there was an end and as we walked up the 18th hole it was clearly in site. 

We walked at a steady but slowing pace up the fairway of the final hole. The crowded clubhouse veranda was now populated by the late afternoon onlookers who watch golfers come off the course each day. Draped in summer attire with cocktails in hand they were the gallery who bore witness to the best round of my life. But like many stories, the ending was amiss. 

When I arrived at my ball in the 18th fairway I looked up to take in the scene around me. For the first time in hours, I became cognizant of my friends. They were looking at me from forty yards away in the same manner that baseball teammates stay away from a pitcher with a perfect game on the line. Seeing them and the crowd of onlookers and the sea crashing nearby brought me back to where I was. I’ll never know why, but as I took a long gaze at my surroundings the cloud I was on seemed to lower back down to earth. 

My approach the final green came up well short and I could feel myself returning to my body. I wasn’t watching from above anymore. I was on the ground and in my shoes again. Perhaps it was because I realized a birdie would yield an even-par round, but either way, the golf gods had determined that my time was up. 

Instead of a perfect finish, I tapped in for a bogey. It didn’t matter though. I had just come through something that defied logic. It was supernatural. I had floated and glided and sailed gently around the hardest course in the country while battling a hangover and a two-club wind. Mike put on a big smile and congratulated me on a special round. My friends stood and stared at me like I had just performed some sort of miracle. 

“Holy shit man.” 

“That was really something.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that.”

We exited the green and the round came to an end. The sun was beginning to lay down over the dunes and happy hour was in full swing. I strolled up the gentle slope to the clubhouse veranda and finally paused to appreciate what I had just done. My score was 74. It wasn’t the lowest of my life, but that round was by far the best I ever had. By this time, my hangover had subsided and our larger group was anxious to know how our foursome had fared. After all there was money and pride on the line. I walked into the Ryder Cup bar and a smile climbed across my face. It was the happiest I’d ever been in golf. 

What began as a dreadful morning had morphed into a day that I’ll never forget. I don’t know what happened out there on the Ocean Course, yet I’m confident that it was metaphysical in nature. People will call me crazy for suggesting that the game of golf left me with an out of body experience, but it happened and it was incredible. My round of golf that day was only possible because I allowed myself to go into something that I didn’t fully understand. I’ve got a feeling that the hangover from those feelings won’t be so easily shaken. 

There is no way to know if I’ll ever find that state of mind again. The golf gods are cruel and fickle. They tease us all with a poor sense of humor, but on occasion they breathe some powerful wind into our sails and carry us to newfound places. Such magic is real, but fleeting. Just when we think we have harnessed its power, it disappears like a kite lost on the breeze. On my day at the Ocean Course, golf became a portal to another plain of existence. Perhaps, if I’m lucky and mix my spirits just right the night before, I can ride that wind again someday.