June 9, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Taking me to a fancy, high-dollar golf course is sort of like someone with no taste buds ordering a costly five-course meal Ė itís a big waste of money. Of course I was just another of the suckers in line at Old Kinderhook in Camdenton this past weekend as I forked over close to $90 for eighteen holes of golf.

About six hours later I was wondering what the heck I had been thinking. I should have just drove around the beautiful course on the outer roads, because the scenery was all that I enjoyed. It was sort of like paying someone to beat you up, as I struggled so badly with my golf game that I probably doubled my out-of-pocket expenses with the number of golf balls I lost to the water hazards and surrounding tree lines.

Thatís the beauty of Kinderhook, itís challenging. Of course, if itís challenging for a good golfer, that makes it nearly impossible for a golfer of my caliber.

Generally a golf course is designed by an engineer. However, I suspect the man or woman who laid out Old Kinderhook had majored in punishment or at minimum was a dungeon master reincarnated. How else can you explain placing so many sand bunkers in such proximity to the greens? We all enjoy a challenge, but I also enjoy having enough room on my card to write down my score. Generally there isnít enough space under each hole for double-figure totals.

I kept telling myself that the course wasnít really that hard. Sure the narrow fairways are a bit intimidating when you hook or slice 99 percent of the balls you hit with a driver. But once you take your penalty strokes and lay out for your approach shot to the green, youíre almost halfway home. Sure your sand time rivals all your trips to the beach combined, but at least the greens are big, giving you an enlarged target. Once on the green, you can put away the 15 other clubs you used to get there, and concentrate on your putter. Then you concentrate on it again and again, and then finally head back to the cart knowing you have to go through the same routine 12 to 16 more times.

But if I think about it too much, I only add to my torture. Believe it or not, but I started out well. I mashed a long drive on the first hole, right down the middle of the fairway. My second shot even found the green, giving me a birdie putt. Three strokes later the stinking little white ball finally fell in the cup for a bogey. Nothing is worse than a three putt, except a four or five putt.

Still, I was fairly pleased. Iím a bogey golfer at best, so I couldnít complain, considering I had played a pretty tough hole, hadnít lost a ball, and didnít have the worst score in our group.

My pleasure didnít last long, as my game went downhill faster than the golf carts on the steep slopes of the hilly course. At least my partners showed mercy. They ridiculed me and poked fun far less than normal. Of course thatís like saying it was a cool day in the desert at only 105-degrees.

My misery was compounded by the weather. I thought Mother Nature was actually going to save me, as the rains came as we were pulling into the parking lot at the course. The temperature dropped 12 degrees while heavy rains fell for nearly half an hour. But the weather lady must have been in cohorts with the dungeon master at the course as she stopped the precipitation and then turned up the heat to the 95-degree neighborhood.

That meant it was soggy enough on the course that we could only run the carts on the paths. For a lazy man like me, that was terrible news, as I had to walk to my ball, which invariably was as far away from the path as possible. The wet fairways did offer some relief from the nearly unbearable heat and humidity, as on more than one occasion I splashed mud, muck and water all over myself thanks to a bad swing of the club.

Yet through all of this, I did make a couple of very good shots. Thatís golf, you remember those two or three top performances and forget the 123 other strokes.

By the time it was all over, I was muddy, sunburned, exhausted, depressed and much lighter in the wallet. Boy I canít wait to go back next year.

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