Living on the links, behind the scenes
Vail CO, Colorado
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Steve Bowman is always wondering when another golf ball’s going to fly through his window.
Bowman has lived next to the fifth green at The Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks in Silverthorne for 10 years. During that time, he’s earned a behind-the-scenes perspective on the ups and downs of such a lifestyle. In addition to dealing with the occasional broken window, Bowman is accustomed to collecting balls, watching people play past his house and replacing divots.
Overall, the retired homeowner considers himself lucky.
“We’ve been here 10 years and I’ve lost three windows,” Bowman said, “which isn’t bad, considering the season begins in May and goes until October and there’s 145 to 150 people out here every day. Of the three windows that we lost, one of the responsible golfers was honest enough to stop and say, ‘Hey I broke your window,’ but the other two disappeared into the woods. So one out of three are honest golfers.”
Bowman laughed when recalling the day the guilty party came forward.
“His partner finked on him and said, ‘He did it,’ ” Bowman explained. “They were enjoying their game, they were into it ” we replaced the window and they sent us a check. … We even took a photo with them.”
Bowman spoke to the gray area that surrounds a golfer’s liability while playing the links.
“Some courses have a sign at the tee box that says, ‘Golfers are responsible for broken windows,’ but The Raven doesn’t,” Bowman said. “There’s no right or wrong if you break a window. Is it your fault because you live at the golf course or is it the golfer’s fault? That is an unknown answer.”
Photo by Mark Fox
Homeowners along The Raven Golf Course often times have golf balls hitting their house and landing in their yard.
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Mountains of golf balls
The bright side of living on a golf course is never having a shortage of balls. Bowman, who’s collected boxes of them over the years, said his wife no longer permits him to bring them home.
Another golf course resident, Jana Hlavaty, who lives near the seventh hole at Keystone’s River Course, said she picks up more than 1,000 balls every year.
“It’s a pastime for people who live on a golf course,” said Hlavaty, Keystone’s Nordic director. “I don’t know what to do with them ” I don’t play golf.”
While many homeowners donate or store away their accumulated balls, others will sell them. Take the seventh tee box at Haystack Mountain Golf Course in Niwot, which happens to be above the course’s largest water hazard. If you shank a shot (or two) you can always put a dollar in the coffee can and take three balls. The honor system applies. One Denver 11-year-old, who lives adjacent to the 15th hole of the Glenmoor Country Club, found a different way to sell golf balls during a chance encounter that was recently recounted by his father, Jim Rubin.
“Josh saw a ball sitting in the yard, so he picked it up and put it in his pocket,” Rubin said. “When the golfer walked down the fairway and asked if he had seen it, Josh pointed to his pocket. The guy said, ‘I’ll give you a dollar if you drop it on the other side of those bushes. He had a huge smile on his face.”
This was clearly a case where everyone won. Young Rubin added to his piggy bank while the errant golfer was able to hoodwink his buddies.
Bowman likes to both play and spectate golf, which is another advantage his living spot affords.
“We can sit on our deck, enjoy our happy hour and watch guys stumble through their game ” it’s a kick,” he said. “When they’re good we clap, when they miss a shot, we say, ‘Better luck next time.’ We’re the gallery.”
Bowman said he and his wife have periodically recognized celebrities, such as Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, as they played through.
Hlavaty enjoys watching too, sometimes covertly.
“We watch golfers in the rough who try to cheat by pushing the ball forward,” she said. “It’s funny to see because they don’t know they’re being watched.”
Other times the homeowner is in plain sight.
“I actually like it,” Hlavaty said. “I wave at them and toast them if I have a glass of water. They’re right underneath my window, but it never bothers me. It never crossed my mind that it would bother me.”
Rubin agreed that watching golfers in action is fun, but said he’s also slightly concerned that one of his three children might get struck by a ball while playing in the yard.
Proximity has its privileges
Although Bowman doesn’t have a pass to The Raven, he’s found a way to play a round or two every once in a while.
“I like to volunteer as part of the good neighbor policy,” he said. “If I take care of this hole, go out in the morning and patch the divots, work on the green and pick up cigarettes for half a day, I’ll eventually get a free pass.”
Cal Winn, who also lives adjacent to The Raven, appreciates his back yard for more than just the golfing it affords.
“The living experience on a course is special,” Winn said. “Every day we walk our dog along the cart path on the back nine. And the scenery is wonderful. After the golfers leave, it becomes a quiet, private place that’s full of wildlife.”
For other golf course residents, the twilight hour is the time to poach.
“I think living on a golf course is sweet,” said Frisco’s Katherine Keen, whose parents reside next to Mountain View Country Club in La Quinta, Calif. “You deal with the broken windows because you get to hold personal chipping and putting contests after everyone leaves.”