Sunday, August 30, 2015
PLAYING OUTSIDE THE ROPES
Touche' Ball, Greensboro National GC, Summerfield, NC
One of the old sayings in golf is that “hazards attract, fairways repel”. If you’ve watched much professional golf on television or live, you’ve probably observed that the fairways and greens are always roped off. These containment barriers are used mainly to hold back the fans and keep them out of play and harms’ way. I’ve only played one round of golf within the confines of the ropes when I participated in a Pro-Am tournament at Inverness in Florida. It was a weird experience in many ways including having physical boundaries within the prime real estate of staying well inbounds. And of course, life is also best played within the ropes.
All too often we weekend golfers find ourselves outside the ropes on many of our golf shots. Many low country courses have vast waste areas that have been left native to the area. Midwestern courses have tall grassy rough areas that are almost impossible to locate errant balls. Heavily wooded country that has had courses selectively logged to cut out the fairways for a golf course present their own challenges, but at least they do yield the occasional tree monkey shots that careen back into the fairway off a tree trunk. And then there are all the water hazards in the form of oceans, lakes and small holding ponds where many players have ritualistically drowned or baptized their golf ball on the edges or deep in the center. A good rule of thumb when hitting over water is that you can either hit one more club or two more balls.
The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida where Pete and Alice Dye created the diabolical signature par 3, 137 yard 17th hole is probably one of the most infamous island greens surrounded by water. The 17th is considered by many to be the most intimidating hole in the game. Mark Calcavecchia once stated that “It’s like having a 3 o’clock appointment for a root canal”. It’s been said that golfers who have been watching play on this green for years and finally have the chance to play it will hit balls until they either hit the green or run out of golf balls. The PGA estimates that over 100,000 balls find the water around the island green every year. And the 18th is a 462 yard par 4 formidable finishing hole with water all along the left side of the fairway that gathers in its share of golf balls. Ironically, the professional players did not like the course when it first opened due to the severity of play. Jack Nicklaus was quoted as saying, “I’ve never been very good at stopping a 5-iron on the hood of a car” and J. C. Snead called the course “90 percent horse manure and 10 percent luck”. Dye tweaked the course soon after and it’s now considered one of the greatest tests of golf.
But never fear, if there is an opportunity for golf equipment manufactures to sell any kind of gear, they’ll come up with something. And so the product of choice for any golfer who has hit into a hazard or brush, but most especially water, is the now infamous ball retriever! Many golf balls find their way under the ropes and into the water on the roll. So many of them can be spotted just out of reach. That’s where a telescoping retriever pays for itself in just a few rounds, depending on the skill of the owner. Of course, this generates more than just a few wise cracks on the course such as “My retriever wasn’t long enough to get my putter out of the tree” or “I always get my retriever regripped right along with my clubs”. And we must be vigilant of our role as a hunter not a gatherer, lest our dreams are no longer of conquest but only of salvage!