I have been living in the Pacific Northwest, with its two feet of rain every year, and still have not given up and bought knee-length golf goulashes with spikes in them and a black slicker and waterproof pants so I can play golf on so many bad weather days. It is a game, not a macho manhood rite for me, to spend a couple of hours trying to get the ball in the next hole.
I traded Tom Weiskopf ski lessons for golf lessons. I spent the better part of a couple of winters skiing with him while he was designing and building the golf course at the Yellowstone Club. Knowing he is too busy to ever teach me anything, it is nice to have bragging rights that you have that reserve in the bank.
Our golf course on the island has been called a lot of things, from quaint to rock hard in the late fall, when the rain has not shown up for a month or so. I personally think the course is great! There are nine holes with 18 tees so you can play for two hours or four depending on your stamina.
A few years ago, a contractor here on the island bought it, and his son runs it. They have a total staff of one green keeper.
For contrast, occasionally Laurie and I drive to the Yellowstone Club in the summer. For their 18 holes, they have 36 green keepers. Either course you play, it is just as hard to get that little white ball into the black hole.
A couple of years ago, the golf gurus decided to have a gold tee, and it was way out in front of where the women tee off. That’s because old guys can’t hit the ball very far, so it kind of evens the game out. The idea worked so well that a friend of mine who plays at Lakeside in Los Angeles told me that 22 old guys rejoined the club.
I do it differently. I just don’t bother to keep score, and it all works out just fine for me. I even get an extra shot on every hole and have a lot of fun with my short game because that is what I do with every shot. I just hit it short.
But that is about to all change because the other day I went to the driving range and someone was there demonstrating the latest in golf clubs. It is just the same as a demo ski day, but you don’t have to worry about sharp edges. He put three different clubs into my hands, and each one of them made the ball go at least 20 yards farther. I can’t tell how far on the driving range because I can’t see where the ball is landing after it is 15 yards away from where I hit it. (And occasionally that 15 yards is as far as I can hit it.) There have been a lot of times when I tee off that I barely hit it as far as the women’s tee.
Often in the clubhouse after a game while I am sipping on my root beer, someone will ask me my handicap.
My reply is simple: “I don’t have a handicap because the golf course will win every time I play.”
Why does everyone have to keep score? When I go skiing no one asks me what my record time is from top to bottom.
There was a time when the previous owners of the Orcas Island Golf Course did not do a good job. One day I was playing and the deep water clay mud pulled one of my golf shoes off with its incredible sucking power. There are no side curtains on the golf carts to protect us from the rain, but the new owners have replaced most of the gasoline-powered carts with electric drive carts.
It’s a real luxury to glide from golf shot to golf shot in almost total silence except for my muttering about how bad my shot was — especially if I am playing with my regular partner, Lynn, and he has forgotten to put in his hearing aids. I can’t see, so we make a great pair.
An entire book could be written about the driving range. The owners bought a new used machine that is electric and is run by a solar panel of inadequate size.
More often than not, I will stop by to hit a couple of buckets of balls. After I park my car there, take my bag of clubs to where I will hit the balls from and discover that the batteries in the ball machine are out of electricity because that sun has not been out for four or five hours that day. Then it is a long walk to the clubhouse where I can get a bucket of balls and get to hitting them and trying for the 150 yard mark. If only I could see a golf ball in flight that far away.
Sometimes after a long rain, I can hit a ball and hear it plop in the deep mud of the driving range. Grass and mud only the daring would venture into. The owner was a little miffed when I offered to loan him an old pair of snowshoes that his employee could use to retrieve golf balls until the summer sun dried out the mud.
Everyone who plays here got a surprise when the owners bought a brand new lawn mower with a retail price tag of $75,000. They did get a good deal on it though because it was last year’s model and only cost $39,995. It was a great addition to my playing time. I have managed to get halfway to the third hole lately without losing a golf ball in the 4-inch-tall rough that would extend from one end of the course to the other and completely cover the fairways.
I appreciate the owners of the course and hope that they have a good sense of humor about my writings. The course is only a 15 minute drive from my home on the island. Otherwise, I would have to take long ferryboat ride to another island or to the mainland, where it would take an hour and a half each way, plus an hour waiting in the ferryboat line.
When we first moved here in 1992, I was really hooked on learning how to fish for salmon. I soon found out why they call it fishing instead of catching. I still have all of the fishing gear hanging in my garage.
In playing golf, at least I know what I am looking for and how to find it. I can come home from a game of golf and stretch the imagination of anyone who will listen about my lack of ability on a golf course.
Of course, no one listens to golf stories except the guy or gal who is telling them and then only if it is about their best game ever when they actually had their best score.
In almost every other game, the highest score wins. But in golf, the lowest score wins. This should tell you about how goofy the entire game of golf is.
It is a game in which the first liar doesn’t have a chance.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to more than 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log onto www.warrenmiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to www.warrenmiller.org.