Vail Daily column: Ah, the joys of mud season golf |

Vail Daily column: Ah, the joys of mud season golf


Since the middle of December, everyone I know has been looking for deep, untracked powder snow. Now in the late spring, many of the same friends are looking for short green grass with a microscopically small hole 400 yards away. For some dumb reason, the object is to put that little white ball at your feet into that very small hole by hitting it as few times as possible with a stick that has a piece of meticulously laminated stainless steel surrounding it with a funny looking lump on the end.

I lifted my golf bag out from under the outboard motor leaning against it. The bagful of clubs and stuff was right where I left two of my grown-up toys last November. As I started to move the bag, a mama mouse and half a dozen babies escaped and scurried across the garage floor, headed for sanctuary somewhere in my wife’s greenhouse, which of course is a lot warmer than the garage.

Now the mistakes of migrating from our island home to our Montana home are surfacing as the seasons once again change.

When I dug out my new golf shoes, my first real dumb mistake showed up. I had stuffed my wet socks in my shoes from the last round of golf I played during the heavy rainstorm in November. The moisture, mud and grass clippings had turned into a giant gray mass of stuff that made it impossible to even try and get the nearly new golf shoes on.

A long time ago, I was able to dig out the moldy growth with my putter and somehow make my tee time at the local golf course. But no such chance to do that this day and age because they are making putters so big that they are no longer suitable as a mildew scoop, since you cannot get them into the shoes. (My wife is groaning and shaking her head. She doesn’t understand men, even though most of her life she’s been surrounded by them.)

Luckily, this was happening in my garage, so I found an 18-inch screwdriver that I used to pry the goo and gunk out of my no-longer new golf shoes.

Running late, I stopped by to pick up my occasional golf partner Ole. He lives down by the recycling center, behind where you dump your worn-out kitchen appliances for a fee of $25.

Ole lives down in the hollow because his grandfather used to have a hog farm, and Ole inherited it when his grandpa died while he was in college. Ole immediately quit studying computer science and took up hog farming and golf. Ole makes the rounds of all of the restaurants on the island after they close for the night and collects leftover food to help feed his hogs. This last winter was long and cold with very few tourists, so his hogs are pretty skinny this spring.

Ole is the only golfer I have ever played with who has a pair of calf-high rubber goulashes with genuine metal golf cleats on them. He found them one day in the recycling center and bought them for 65 cents on a rainy afternoon when he was the only customer that day. Only on this island would you find golf goulashes with cleats! Only on this island would you need them!

Ole is a good golfer and has eyes like a hawk. He keeps his eagle eyes on where I hit my ball because my eyes are getting bad after being open for 16 hours a day for 80-teen years. He is a little hard of hearing, so when I find his ball for him I have to use arm signals to let him know where it is. We definitely are the odd couple of the local golf course.

Our first game this spring worked very well for him. Halfway down the second fairway, I waded through some water that came over the top of my nearly new, moldy golf shoes with some starter mud already in them. The water was really cold and as I sloshed my way toward the second hole, the water that was being squeezed out of the shoes contained a lot of the mold, so it worked for me. (My wife’s eyes are rolling around in her head like something is wrong with her. She apparently thinks something is wrong with me.)

The cloud that had been hovering on nearby Turtleback Mountain suddenly dumped torrential rain on us as we drove the golf cart at maximum speed toward the clubhouse. In our haste, Ole drove us through a puddle of rain water that came up over the floorboards of the golf cart and we were stuck. Since he had the goulashes with the golf cleats on them he became the designated golf cart pusher until we got to higher ground. Without snow tires on the golf cart, we could not get it up the hill and back to the clubhouse, so we left the cart where it had gotten stuck for the third time that day.

The one-man staff that was running the golf course that day had forgotten we were on the course and had closed up and left for home to watch an NBA playoff game rerun.

There was barely enough shelter on the small porch for Ole and me to shake some of the water off of our bodies before we headed for the car.

Ole was able to make the most out of the day because he had suggested we take his truck to the golf course instead of my wife’s new station wagon. We stopped by a couple of his restaurants that were having wedding receptions, and he was able to get several buckets of leftover food for his hogs.

On the wet drive home, I rationalized that the first game of golf in the spring is the same as the first day of skiing in the fall, when you know that two inches of snow will not cover all of the 2-inch rocks and you think that you can fix all of the scratches in your new skis just because you got to make some turns on the side of the hill.

The dumb things we do while we search for freedom. Freedom is why I don’t keep score when I play golf because it is called a game, you know. (And I can’t understand why my wife can’t understand me.)

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 For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to

Support Local Journalism