Friday, October 15, 2010

Is This Club Straight?

I’m thrown into a quandary when someone asks me if I golf. I could give them a long-winded answer about my two sets of Salvation Army clubs, my very infrequent early-morning visits to the Theodore Wirth par three five minutes from my house (where I seldom shoot anything less than 40), and the time during my university years when I played 33 holes on “the big course.”

Or I could just say no.

But yesterday my friend Dana and I headed out to Mississippi Dunes, a Scottish-style 18-hole course nestled into a curve of the Mississippi River south of Cottage Grove, armed with a Groupon and a very large supply of golf balls. Titlest 1. Topflight 3. I held onto a Bridgestone 2 for eight or nine holes and considered that an achievement in itself.

The Dunes has sand traps that look like submerged missile silos and hills lined with thick wooden planks. It seems that the folks who designed the course had both the military and recreational senses of the word “bunker” in mind when they put it together. It has enough deep rough to keep a botanist occupied all afternoon, and enough water flowing through it to cool a nuclear plant. It’s the kind of course where you can’t see the green until you cross two hills, a small forest, and a stretch of North Africa. The only way you can locate the green at that point is by following the cigar smoke of the foursome ahead of you. It’s a beautiful spread, all the same, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

The golf cart helped. (It came with the coupon.) Nothing brings out the boy in me more, I think, than those marvelous vehicles that jump to life like magic when you touch the accelerator, turn on a dime, and traverse the rolling fairways with ease. But even on wheels, it took us five hours to complete the course. I may have lost ten balls and found three. Dana shrewdly combed a grassy bank 200-yards down on the 18th hole and found five in one sweep.

“By this time,” he reasoned, “the golfers are getting so frustrated by their errant shots that they just say “Screw it!” and head for the clubhouse.”

I made a few long putts, and Dana hit a passing train (intentionally) with a very fine drive. As the day progressed we more consistently hunted up the ladies’ tees. (Why kid ourselves?) And on the last hole, which runs to 395 yards, I was on the green in three. Five putts later I had succeeded in playing myself entirely “out of the money.”

Still, it was a fabulous day. And I'm thinking that if I just keep my head down, and my left art stiff, cock the wrist at the proper moment, follow through... and strike the ball rather than the turf or thin air, everything will finally fall into place, once and for all.

Maybe next year.

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