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I sometimes wonder what factors are involved with shaping our relationships with the game of golf.  Is there some common thread that predisposes one to pursue the traditional forms of golf in the face of multimillion dollar ad campaigns?  Is it nature or nurture? On the nature side, one must certainly be intelligent enough to understand golf course design and see the nuanced beauty of the classic game.  One must also be humble enough to face the same challenges as your fellow golfer with less forgiving gear.  On the nurture side: perhaps we are honoring the game in the way that a respected parent or role model played it.   Perhaps we are just looking for more sustainable and efficient ways to play golf in harmony with the natural terrain.

One factor that I think may be overlooked is the golf course we first learned to play on.  Many of the traditional golfers I talk to grew up on tight, persimmon era golf courses.  I’m not saying they had to be top-100 gems by the master architects – I’m just saying the short courses that have interesting layouts where the golfer must think, develop variety, and execute with precision.  There are many municipal and executive courses that fit this bill.

As a case study, I’d like to submit the golf course I grew up on for analysis.  I first started playing Laguna Lake Golf Course when I was in middle school.  It was across the street from the junior high school and they’d let us play for 5 bucks or for free if we picked up balls from the netted range.  Laguna is an executive course which, at the time, had three par 4′s and six par 3′s for a par of 30.  The par 3′s ranged from 80 to 140 yards but every one had a small green on an elevated mound.  Some would see this as “tricked out” and artificial.  I can’t argue with that but these mounds served to protect the course and send any offline shot bounding away from the greens.  Length meant very little, accuracy was everything, and getting up and down on these greens was an art form all its own. The signature par 3 was number 6 which featured a shot of 100 yards over a ravine to wide green sloping hard back to front.  Anything sent long required a pitch up the back of the green that could scoot down into the ditch again.  This shot terrified young golfers and old ladies alike.

As for the par 4′s, the 1st was 240 yards which made for two solid hits when I first took up the game.  The second was 210 yards and made you carry two creeks – one looming just in front of the tee and one about 160 from the tee.  I can’t tell you how many times I dumped a tee ball into the first creek  but I also have great memories of reaching the green in one when the tees were up and I had a strong wind behind.   The third par-4 was just magic for a youth.  It required a tee shot of 90 yards to a landing area protected by a creek for shots that went too far.  The hole then bent more than 90 degrees to the left and required a an approach of about 115 yards.  You couldn’t go for the green off the tee because any shot too far left would hit a house protection screen and be completely blocked out for the 2nd shot.  However, there was about a 3 yard gap between the net and the last of a row of trees that lined the left side off the tee.  The miracle shot, which we all tried, was to hit a hard hook that bent just left of the last tree but stayed right of the net, bounding around the dogleg, off the fence that protected the creek, and towards the volcano green.  The perfect shot could get within 30 yards of the green but most of the time we’d just clang it off the tree or get caught in the net.  I sure learned to hit a low hook though.

Anyways…why am I rambling about this?  Because I was back in my hometown this last weekend for a wedding and made it a priority to go play Laguna for the first time in many many years.  Last time I was here the course had been modified from the form I grew up playing because the bridge that led across the ravine on hole 6 had given out.  They had completely relocated the tee and made the hole a bit silly, approaching from 90 degrees relative to the original direction.  The sloping green would accept nothing from that angle.  On this trip I was excited to see that the bridge had been rebuild and number 6 restored to it’s original form.  We lost the first shot of the dogleg par 4 but it is now setup as a par 3 with the same approach shot.

I had a blast playing this little course for the first time with persimmon and blades, letting the memories flood back as I was reminded when and where I fell in love with this game.  Bear with me for a bit as I visually document my trip back to where it all began.  A classic course it was not, but damn did we have fun!


[click to enlarge pictures]




3 Responses to “Reflections on My First Golf Course”

  1. Geez…. I enjoyed that read and it brought back a flood of memories. Gary Player said a few years ago that,”Memories….. are the cushion of life!” I beleive him.
    The course was 9 holes and all 3 pars. It was built on a “filled in” section of the 1st & 2nd Welland Canal. The clay base covered the clay base. The grass was bronw from April to October. It was $1.00 for 9 holes(weekdays) but for an 11 year old, it was heaven. Used my fathers left handed clubs and “Canada Cup” golf balls. Got my first case of “poison ivy” there. Used the longest broken tees we could find. Didn’t have a clue what I was doing – nice memories though. The picture is me about 1967.

  2. Avatar of freddiec freddiec says:

    PGT, Well done. I enjoyed reading your recollection. I appreciate you keeping your forum up to date with interesting material. I always look fwd to coming here. Please keep it up.

  3. Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed it. This one was really fun to write!

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