Posted by: Mike Cornelius | April 2, 2017

The Rites Of Spring, Part Two

“Wicked. Tricksy. False.” Such was Gollum’s opinion of Hobbits, or “hobbitses” as that poor, tortured soul referred to them. Here at On Sports and Life we take a kinder view of the Baggins’s, Gamgee’s and Took’s, having never been personally wronged by a halfling resident of the Shire. But surely no one will blame us if we and other New Englanders redirect Gollum’s unkind appellation to Mother Nature this weekend. For in a nasty meteorological April Fool’s joke, she sent eight inches of wet and heavy snow our way to begin the first full month of spring. Wicked and tricksy for certain, yet unfortunately all too true.

The fresh layer of white won’t last long, as the forecast calls for a rainy week ahead. But the one certain impact of all that water will be a delay in the start of our already too short golf season. We’ve had the good luck of some remarkably early opening days in recent years, with play often starting in mid-March. At the other end of the season, just two Decembers ago Christmas Eve included a pleasant walk around one of the local links. But those are exceptions; the rule of thumb here is that the golf season runs from “T to T.” That is, from mid-April (Tax Day) to late November (Thanksgiving). This season local duffers are likely to pay for their recent bonus days. The one course that has dared to post a projected opening date is hoping for April 24th.

Thus the opportunity to get away to warmer climes for a few days was especially welcome this year. While others gaze longingly at their clubs, still stacked in a corner of a closet or stashed in the basement, ours have already been put to good, and admittedly sometimes not so good, use. Four courses in as many days played host to the first shots of a new season, both the ones straight and true and those decidedly less so.

The first drive was struck in solitude off the 10th tee at the Rolling Oaks Course, one of two distinctly different Tom Fazio designs at World Woods Golf Club. After four months of playing golf only in one’s head, the first swing can be nerve-wracking even when one has lost count of how many seasons have gone before. But on a sunny day, with a few clouds lending texture to the blue above, the Titleist climbed into the sky right on the desired path, down the middle with just a hint of a fade. A new season was officially underway.

World Woods, which opened in 1991, is an effort by a Japanese development company to provide daily fee golfers with an upscale experience. The golf more than fulfills that promise, with a massive practice facility, nine-hole short course and two acre putting green in addition to the two challenging courses. The amenities are a bit more pedestrian. In the small clubhouse one passes through a door labeled “Men’s Locker Room” to find a room without any lockers, and facilities that would in any other location simply be described as the men’s room. If only wishing could make it so.

Of course if that were the case the opening round would have been completed in 76 strokes. But those days, while once fairly common, are now but a memory. The fine drive off the back nine start led to the first par of the year, but the first double bogey immediately followed. Playing alone and following a foursome, one had time to savor the beauty of the day. While going out as a single was unexpected, it was perhaps appropriate; for over the years many, many rounds have been played with just the company of birdsong and breezes.

A maintenance worker had the good timing to show up beside the 14th green, the fifth hole of the round, just after a punched 6-iron approach shot had found its way under the overhanging branches of a tree and onto the extreme left edge of the green. The pin was on the other side, fifty or more feet away. But golf is always a game of the unexpected, and surely the cross-country putt dropping into the hole as it did for a birdie is the embodiment of that term. “Great shot,” yelled the worker, to which the only possible response was a hearty laugh.

The three rounds that followed were with a friend of more than four decades, and in one case with a neighbor at the friend’s winter retreat. We played Grand Reserve, a course not yet ten years old featuring a particularly tough stretch of holes near the turn. Then we were a threesome at King and Bear, one of two courses at the World Golf Village, home to the sport’s Hall of Fame. Lastly we took a turn around St. John’s Golf Club, owned and operated by the county for which it is named. Its signature hole is a daunting double dogleg par-5.

While World Woods was a reminder of the inner peace that can come from a solitary game, those three rounds showed golf’s ability to both forge and strengthen our bonds of affection. The neighbor was affable and outgoing, an easy person to play a round with and a more than capable golfer. He added pleasure to the game and did so without drama; which is all that one could ask. My longtime friend does not have my own deep history in the sport, but he has become increasingly passionate about the game. He is also getting steadily better.

As befits our abilities, there were three putts and dubbed chips, there were drives that sailed far off-line and iron shots that skittered along the ground rather than rising gracefully into the air. But there were also five footers that found the heart of the cup as if we both had nerves of steel, and a chip-in to save par from a side hill lie to a sloping green that would have made Phil Mickelson proud. At Grand Reserve there was a tally for my friend that marked a personal best. At King and Bear there was a 15-foot putt for birdie at the last that was read as needing to start outside left. Struck on just that line, the Titleist climbed the hill and curled into the hole. Few things in golf are better than a finishing birdie. One of those few things is being able to share it with a friend.

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Responses

  1. Welcome back, Mike. Sounds like you are tanned, rested and ready.
    Ω


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