A Lifetime on the Course: Crazy Golf

December 14, 2012

Many golfers have stories of the odd things they’ve seen. From drives that bounced off carts and back into the fairway to balls that skipped over lakes, the “rub of the green” just happens sometimes.

People often ask me what the craziest thing I’ve seen in golf is. I’ve seen a total of eight holes-in-one, five of them my own. There will be time to talk about those later. Two of the three others were hit at Mystery Valley Golf Course, my original stomping grounds for the game of golf. The first one I saw was by a 75-year-old man who hit a 9-wood 145 directly at the pin on the 16th. When I said “that might’ve gone in” he shrugged it off. In fact, it had gone in. The second was clear as day, and we all watched the ball roll into the hole on the 2nd green.

Aside from aces, I’ve seen a lot of weird and crazy stuff. I was once threatened by an angry Jamaican wielding a golf club. I flipped a golf cart going about 40mph and somehow lived through it. I worked at a course with a fellow who grew marijuana at the back of the range. I even played golf with one of my best friends who had, not one, but two golf club heads snap off at the hosel during a round. I’ve had people dive out of the way of golf balls 100 feet over their heads. (all of these will be covered at some point)

But perhaps the craziest of crazy golf was the third ace I witnessed. I tell the story often because, frankly, if it weren’t real, it wouldn’t be believable.

During college I worked for a company outside of Boston, Massachusetts. It was a recurring internship wherein I went to school one semester, went to work the next, went to school the next, and went to work the following until graduation. My second semester at work was in the Fall of 2004. Although I wasn’t a tremendous golfer–maybe a single-digit handicap at the time–I still loved the game.

The local municipal golf course was Juniper Hill Golf Course. This is still one of my favorite municipal tracks, as it was always maintained at least playably well and was a fun layout of 36 holes. Neither of the courses were particularly long, but the land features were unique and challenging, as well as quite beautiful for the Massachusetts countryside-ish.

One afternoon, I decided to play the Lakeside course. This was probably my more preferred of the two courses. It is still one of the only courses I’ve played with a par 3 starting hole.

JH scorecard

This particular afternoon, I was paired up with Ed and Dave. Why I still remember these folks’ names, I have no clue. Nonetheless, Ed and Dave both were very friendly. They clearly knew each other. I learned during the round that they had done business together for years but this was the first time they had met in person.

Ed and Dave were both experienced golfers, but I was playing a little more seriously than them, stepping off yardages and paying attention to wind directions. Ed and Dave started asking for my help on some of their shots, which I gladly obliged. Why not tell them the yardage if I had already determined it?

The 14th hole at Juniper Hill’s Lakeside course is on the edge of the property, just before the lake. It plays entirely over a marsh, as seen in the view below:

It’s NOT the hole on the top where you see the sand trap in front of the green. It’s actually on the bottom, where the green is just in front of the trees and is partially shaded. You can see the cart path on the edge of the marsh leading from the tee box (about 180 yards) to the green. This cart path is the last part of the property before the lake.

This hole is the #1 handicap on the course because of the long carry over water. It’s 206 from the blue tees and 180-ish from the whites. On this day, the tees were playing up at the whites. I stepped off the yardage to roughly 175 yards.

Dave asked me “how far is it?” I replied “it’s about 175-180. I would put a 5-iron in your hand.” Dave grabbed his 5-iron, teed it up, and hit it a good inch thick. The ball waddled in the air, clearly without enough distance to get to the green. It sailed down into the marsh.

As I was about to move my gaze, I saw the ball bounce up out of the marsh. I told Dave to “hold on.” It landed on the green. It rolled toward the flag. “That might be in the hole!!” I said to Dave. He shrugged me off–“no way,” he said. “I don’t know. That looked close, and I don’t see the ball,” I replied.” “It probably just rolled over the back” I said. I walked up to the green as Ed dropped and hit his second ball (he had already hit in the marsh). I looked around behind the green. No ball. I looked in front of the green. No ball. I wanted to respect Dave that, if he did hit an ace, he be the first person to see it. When he got to the green, he started looking around for the ball as well.

“Why don’t you look in the hole?” I asked. Dave did, and, shocked, found his golf ball. Cheers went up. He was ecstatic. I was the only person with a camera phone (this was 2004), and I took a photo on it of Dave pulling his golf ball out of the hole. A GREAT memory.

“What happened?” I thought. I walked down to the marsh, and roughly 5-10 yards short of the green in the marsh was a piece of granite laying flat. It was no bigger and no more curved than a dinner plate. Other than that, nothing could have deflected Dave’s ball. I called him over and pointed it out. Dave, Ed, and I all laughed, as we all knew his ball was about 10 yards short of the green from the tee box.

In other words, Dave hit a hole in one by chunking a shot off the tee, landing it on a dinner plate roughly 165 yards away, and having it bounce up and into the hole.

And THAT, my friends, is what’s crazy about golf.

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