My Country Club

When I was growing up, I worked at a lot of country clubs. It was a good summer job, even when I came home from college, and at most of the courses there were privileges to being an employee, use of the swimming pool, or the tennis courts, or even the golf course itself. We enjoyed some of those activities, and it was also nice to wander around in another world, a fantasy world populated by a different sort of people, with different cars, and clothes, and fancy dinner parties when anyone got married. Even as an employee I felt sort of glamorous, and since all of my friends worked at these places too, we had a lot of parties of our own. They were less glamorous, but they were more fun.

As I got a little older, the fun went out of the country clubs. The people who belonged to them expected a little bit more than I was willing to give. I find that odd to some extent, because I am still in the service industry, and people still, by and large, want someone to pay someone to do the dirty work for them. I guess it was the way those fantasy people were conditioned to make their fantasy servants feel, like lesser human beings. I still don’t care for that, ever. I even wrote a golf story that is less than flattering to golfers, and although I like it I don’t know what anyone else thinks of it. It might even be offensive.

I digress. I remember one particular day at a club, I think it was the one up on the Columbia River that catered more to women’s golf, even having a few LPGA events there. From the bar we watched a young woman came through, playing a round on her own. She was very good, and I appreciated the determination on her face as she knocked the ball off the tee, a long way off the tee, and then was gone, striding off without a second thought in what I thought was usually a social game. I heard whispers around the bar that she was attending college on a golf scholarship.

I played disc golf by myself today, and I remembered that girl. I remembered her expression, the single-mindedness that showed pride and belief, in herself and her game. Today I felt that my face looked the same. I was making decisions, taking my shots (including some good ones), and playing on, without worrying about anything else. It was a different way to play what is usually a very social game. The grounds were not tended bermuda grass, and there was no air conditioned bar overlooking the water hole. It was more horse poop, tumbleweeds, and signs saying “beware of rattlesnakes.”

Still, it’s my own country club, and that’s pretty cool.

Poor Man’s Golf

My wife Kim and I camped our way across the country from Florida to Lake Tahoe in 1999. We arrived dirty, tired, and broke. We had no prospects other than the possiblility of a job waiting tables or a minimum wage job working for Heavenly ski resort. We didn’t have anywhere to stay, and each morning when we woke up at the campground by the lake it was colder than the morning before.

I knew we would be all right. Half a mile down the road from the campground, as if it had been put there just for us, was a twenty seven hole golf course that we could play for free anytime we wanted to. We didn’t need a bag of expensive clubs, or a membership, or a golf cart, or a fancy pair of pants. We just needed a few hours of free time, our own two feet, and our discs.

Disc golf is just like regular golf. It has the same rules, and the same conventions. It offers the same escape and the same exercise (without the back pain). It offers a diversion with the same good friends. It’s also just as difficult. To be really good, a player has to have a great drive, a great approach shot or two, and then a brilliant putt. Miss any and the score on the card grows and grows. We live further from the lake now, but we still return to Bijou Disc Golf, and we have discovered new courses in Incline Village, in Carson City, at Kirkwood, and even right across the street from our house. Some are in the mountains. Some are by the river. Some are in the desert. They are all different, all challenging, and all beautiful.

Writing is like poor man’s golf. It is always there for me. I just have to go out and play. Some days, I can’t hit the broad side of a barn door. My disc flies at right angles to where I wanted it to go, or else dives straight into the ground, or else it gets stuck in a tree. Some days I can see the basket (they have chains, so that you can hear it when the disc flies into them) but I am too tentative, and I can’t get the disc to land in it no matter what I do. I just keep playing. I wait for that perfect drive, or that long approach that bangs the chains and drops in place. Writing is just like that for me. I keep putting words on paper. A lot of days, it’s crap. Then, every so often, it all matches up and comes together. I remember that I can do it, that there is something inside of me that can make magic. Those days are worth waiting and working for. I have to keep trying. There is no other way to reach them.