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I have spent the last year or so as a persimmon “lone wolf”. Most of my rounds with vintage gear are when I play 9 holes by myself after work. Why by myself? Well, despite the fact that I can come online and find others that appreciate a more traditional form of the game, I know that if I bring out the wood in a standard foursome of golfers I’m going to spend most of my day justifying its use. Sometimes this is fine and I’m happy to offer my thoughts but other times it detracts from my focus and enjoyment of the game. I had always hoped that I could stir up enough interest with some of my friends to mix in persimmon drivers every once in a while as a change of pace. However, I also don’t want to jam my own opinions down the throats of guys who love the game in their own way for their own reasons.

That’s why I’m excited to report that in the last few weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to meet, converse with, and eventually play 3 rounds of golf with some of the most likeable guys I’ve ever met. They also happen to be persimmon players in the nearby area.

I do not think it’s a coincidence that my game has picked up a bit too. The first round I played with the bay area persimmon crew came at Petaluma Country Club – a short, hilly, 9-hole track built in 1922 (rumored to have been laid out with the help of Alister MacKenzie). 2 of us teed off for a late evening round that saw us finish only 14ish holes, but I was able to manage 4 birdies and nearly had 3 in a row at one point! It was an enjoyable walk filled with the type of conversation that is rare in modern golf – the history of the course, the mechanics of a reliable swing, and the nuance of a precision game rather than a bomb and gauge. Not even a full round, but it’s one I’ll remember for a long time.

In the second round we met up at Adobe Creek – a more modern Arnold Palmer track that was recently re-opened after deteriorating and going under. We added a 3rd this time and despite scuffling a bit on the front, I managed to break 80 on a challenging course. We spent the whole time blabbing away about golf and I was so amped up and excited at the end that I could have played 18 more. We all had our fair share of wild shots but we mixing in a fair amount of solid ones too. Adobe doesn’t call for a massive amount of strategy, but one memorable moment was on the hardest hole – a tricky dogleg right with a blind tee shot, out of bounds left and a creek right. You basically have a 20 yard wide landing area about 200 yards away and any deviation in direction gets tossed by the wind into one hazard or another. We hit 3 woods that looked promising off the tee but could still wind up anywhere due to the nature of the hole. After walking about 100 yards we turned the corner that finally exposed the landing area and found all the balls nestled about 4 yards apart – the position was perfect and we commented that we couldn’t have placed them any better. You’ll have to trust me when I say that even though it was just a tee shot, on this hole finding the fairway is an achievement worth commenting on.

My 3rd round was yesterday at Stonetree – one of the most challenging tracks in northern California. Super slopey greens, hazards galore, elevation, trees, water, ravines – this course has it all and it’s used for various sectional qualifiers. It was myself and one other persimmon player paired with two guys playing modern. The group chose to play the forward tees due to the reputation of the course – a decision I was fine with. This is a scenario where I would not have enjoyed playing a modern titanium driver from those forward tees; I don’t think I would have been able to even hit it much. But it was lovely with persimmon – a mix of drivers and three woods where I felt I had a big advantage with ball control. I hit a few stray tee shots but all were in play – I never had to look for a lost ball all day which is notable at Stonetree. I was playing modern (2005) blade irons and my approach shots were really clicking. I hit 13 greens and had 5 birdies – my highest birdie count in several years. The fun thing was that I created those birdies by driving into the proper position to have a chance at holding the undulating greens. Even from the forward tees I wasn’t able to reach any par 5′s in 2. A couple 3 putts and a double bogie kept me from breaking par but I finished at +1 73, my best round ever with persimmon clubs!

So, in the end, it’s been refreshing to see persimmon golf alive and kicking in the Bay Area. It really is fun to get a team out there bumping it around with old wooden gear. Some of you may have tried to get a group together for a persimmon game. It’s hard to do and folks often have to travel many miles. I know that I can find enjoyment in the simple pleasure of playing the game the way I want to play but I realize now that the company of some fellow traditional golfers can bring out some good stuff in your game and your golfing spirit.

Amazingly, I didn’t bust out the camera at all. It tends to make people nervous and I just wanted to enjoy the course without worrying about making a production. I was surprised to find out that somebody did take some covert videos and sent me a few the next day. Fortunately he promised he deleted all the videos of the bad swings! Here is a mid iron that (allegedly) was struck very well. Hide the women and children!

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