Historically, one of the high points of hitting the links in November centers on the fact that, most often, the courses one plays are closed for the season. It’s you and the deer and the shivering fox and the wild turkeys that never got the memo. It’s a deliberate endeavor, secret so as to escape observation.
Now this is only what I’ve heard. It’s not like I’ve ever partaken of such cheap thrills. Not for me the stripping down the bag to bare essentials until it resembles a quiver and, in total stealth mode, skulking about the premises. None of that surreptitious catlike slinking from tee box to green with the occasional foray into the woods for this guy.
Nope! At least not this year anyway. With another somewhat chilly, mind you Indian summer flaunting its bluebird shtick hereabouts, local courses are playing their reduced-hours card as they bide their time waiting for the frost to burn off each morning before opening for the day. At least for now, they say, while it makes sense to their bean counters.
Of course there are those among us who mismanage time in such a fashion that the warmer hours are allowed to slip by prior to their somewhat-brash entrance to the pro shop.
One way the "starters" are able to communicate what they see as a rather ridiculous state of affairs is by rolling their eyes into the back of their heads and staring somewhat incredulously at the clock on the wall. Not subtle, they! They usually begin with a "Boy, you’re cutting it mighty close." And follow that up with a "Once the sun goes down, it gets mighty cold out there. By 4:30 you can bet it’ll be 35 degrees if not lower." The caveat rolls off their tongue slowly, so as to educate the ignorant "flatlanders" to mountain ways.
Well, they certainly weren’t kidding. Driving to the first tee, the wind chill, even from the cart’s creeping momentum, had the twosome calculating that they had no more than an hour-and-a- half before the balls began freezing to whatever club head had been forcefully removed from the bag.
I say forcefully because, if they had their druthers, the clubs would just as soon be back in the laundry room stuffed between the coolers and the camping gear. This wasn’t their idea. They huddled in the far corner of the bag, rubbing their grips together as if they had suddenly found themselves bringing up the rear in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
"After all we’ve done for you," they seem to say.
Yeah, right! I cut ’em a deal on the spot. They do whatever they can to keep my ball on the short grass and I’ll see about getting them a bag warmer and a brandy rinse. No such luck, as it turned out. They must not like brandy.
Word has it that the normal rules of engagement when meandering around a closed course call for playing those holes farthest from the road so as not to cause any undue hullabaloo should someone from Homeland Security get a fix on you.
That is not the issue when the course is open and the temperature is rapidly falling. What you have then is a form of "guerrilla golf" but with armored vehicles. When conditions are such that waiting for a slower group in front of you is not an option, you skip that hole and race ahead of them to the next tee box.
Of course, everyone else has the same idea and oftentimes you find yourselves with wildly careening carts being driven straight at you from both left and right flanks while golf balls rain down on your position as if from a well-plotted mortar attack. Imagine playing golf-cart "chicken" with Erwin Rommel.
There is an other-worldly aura to the landscape this time of year, what with the ponds being drained and the ball washers tucked away in the maintenance shed. The mule deer stand around tilting their heads and wondering whatever happened to their bathwater while the duffers look for a clean spot on their bag towels with which to spruce up their mud-encrusted balatas. It’s truly a jungle out there!
An upside to all this is that there are also no tee markers to instruct one as to the designated area from which to strike the initial shot on each hole. Now some of the less honorable among us might use this state of affairs as an excuse to play the shot from the farthest forward point, thereby reducing the total yardage of the hole. You’ll have that!
In fact, making up your own rules is what gives "guerrilla golf" its cachet. Since removing the pin when putting in these quite dire conditions appears rather low on the comfort-level food chain, strokes may be subtracted for smartly striking said pin, even if the ball were to carom off the green. That is if score is being kept in the first place, which, with this outfit, is seldom the case.
Ah yes! Quite invigorating, this golf! Not that visions of Ovaltine with a healthy splash of Drambuie, or some such fare, didn’t dance in a head or two. Guerillas are actually pretty big on what were once referred to as "hot toddies." What else are they supposed to do while waiting for the frost to burn off?
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.