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Monday, August 25, 2014

Adventure Golf: Playing Beyond The Short Grass

The Great Search. Photo credit:
Golf's a game that's meant to be played in the short grass and the best golfers I know generally manage to get from tee to green without venturing beyond that relatively easy path to the target.  The trees, the dirt, the stones and sometimes the boulders, the storage sheds that others avoid all call out to me from time-to-time.

I once asked Alma if she didn't get bored with hitting the ball into the fairway, hitting it again, still in the fairway, putting it on the green, and then dropping it into the cup.  She's one of several regular playing partners who seem to deliver the kind of game fairly consistently that I've always secretly envied.
Where's the challenge? I asked her.
 Don't you understand that the challenge is to stay in the fairway, she'd responded.
Apparently I don't understand that basic, axiomatic truth about golf, because my golf ball and I have visited some interesting places beyond the short grass over the years in our ongoing, futile effort to master the game.

I even carry a beat-up old 3-hybrid that I refer to fondly as my "Get Out Of Jail Free" club. It's reserved for shots off scattered gravel and rocks, and it works beautifully for me.  I used to periodically take it to Mr. Billy and have him buff out the dings, but the last time Mr. Billy worked his magic he told me he couldn't do it again.  He'd buffed to the max and any further efforts would destroy the club.  So well-used and battle-scarred, that faithful club rides along in the back corner of my bag now, waiting patiently for those inevitable opportunities to rescue me and my ball from behind trees and off loose stones and return us to the gentler environs of the short grass.

Photo credit:
My favorite personal adventure golf moment came one day at The Plantation at Edisto Island.  I pulled my tee shot left into some thick rough that runs alongside the 10th fairway.  The entire length of that fairway is bordered by a deep tidal canal and I breathed a small sigh of relief that my ball came down in the rough and not the water.  Then, to my astonishment, my ball took a big hop before it disappeared into the tall, thick stuff beside the water.

When I got close enough to start the hunt, I realized the ball had hit something that looked remarkably like an abandoned tractor tire on my grandfather's farm in western Oklahoma.  A bit closer still and I realized that the tractor tire was moving, a 25-foot local fauna specimen, not entirely pleased with the interruption.  I retreated to the right side of the fairway, claimed free relief and took my drop, no closer to the pin but considerably distanced from the alligator.

I started thinking again about that alligator as I watched Phil Mickelson stray repeatedly from the short grass at The Barclays.  Lefty didn't have to deal with any alligators, but he did have to deal with a strategically-placed Hospitality Tent, more than once.

So long as Phil Mickelson continues to take these detours and manage to extricate himself with grace and good humor, I'll not worry too much about my own adventure golf moments.  Like the occasional three and even four-putts, whiffed drives, and short flop shots that end up in bunkers they should have cleared, for most of us, those detours are just a part of the game.

My friend Libby reminds me that playing out of the rough is rather like avoiding sexual predators:
Just go as fast as you can to the closest safe place and then keep on playing!