Chapter 11

 
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11     TROLLS AND PIRATES

 

The first tee is where they wanted to hide; the fourteenth was where they wanted to be seen. This was the Union Square or Newbury Street of the course. It was the closest to 17 Mile Drive, elevated and treeless, so every passing car could see them, and look on with what they thought must surely be awe and envy. There would be no minivan to betray them here. However, a slice would, and bouncing one on the road would shatter the illusion they were members or frequent guests. A slight push would also leave them behind a thick group of Cypress trees, so they had very good reasons to aim left. Unlike the first hole, which they could now look up towards the clubhouse, this one became narrow in the landing area, being pinched from behind by a row of Cypress trees. At this point in the round, they were supposed to be up to the challenge. They were not, and were left with blocked paths up the dogleg right to the elevated green.

What did not block their paths were other golfers. There would be quite a log jam on more accessible courses in this small, common area shared by several tees and greens, especially where carts were permitted. Instead, there were more deer around than other golfers - the real Golden Ratio in life.

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Their tee shots were at the mouth of a chute of Cypress trees leading up the dogleg to the hole. Entering the chute, this was the first time they were so close to Cypress trees on the course - they were not right next to them on the first hole, and the woods were full of Monterey Pines. Twisted and gnarled and growing more out than up, these are the trolls of trees, and steal any ball hit near them. They were drawn to them, but also somehow repelled at the same time. And like a five year old, they were hard to photograph as it was difficult to know where to focus, and none of the images really turned out because of all the commotion among the branches.

After a few shots, since they were not successful in going over or around the troll trees with one stroke, they drew near the hole. With the Cypress trees pinching in to just the width of the green and then circling behind it, this was the most walled-in and constrained place on the course. The green also fell off the back; they had come to a dead-end. On an open course where they could almost always see a few holes at a time, and usually a sweeping landscape, it was surprising and a bit jarring to reach this cul-de-sac. Even the view back up the dogleg fairway was cut-off by the Cypress at the end of the chute. While the previous two holes wonderfully slowed down the round’s pace, the fourteenth constricted it, and even capped it, creating pressure and heightening the anticipation for the upcoming ocean holes. It was not clear how to get to the fifteenth tee, so even this natural release valve was likewise not available. Pure genius. They would not have fresh images of dunes or pines in their heads, but instead have an urge to escape Cypress trees clutching at them, and to emotionally reboot to recapture past thrills.

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Their radiator caps were loosened by crossing over 17 Mile Drive. Walking beyond the veil of trees behind fourteen, the ocean filled them with views and smells of surf, wind, and sea life. The path to the fifteenth tee took them around a small hill and right along the ocean. While they had seen the water at times through out the round, it was just a background in the distance – beautiful but remote and almost two-dimensional. If this was a rodeo, they could now feel the dirt being kicked up, and hear the pounding of hooves. They began walking faster, almost bumping into each other as they had to walk single file on the narrow path.

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Surprise parties are aptly named. Entering a room without knowing the plan is a natural defibrillator. But different from hiding under a bed and grabbing a leg, this surprise is crowdsourced, adding an element of mystery – everyone else knew? And for how long? Rounding the corner and reaching the fifteenth tee was their cheers-and-streamers moment. And there was an almost tangible feeling of the Cypress members lining the tee and green, like teammates around home plate after a game- winning homer, ready to slap backs and congratulate them for being there and receiving their own witness. Cheers also went up for the lifting of the fog – unlike a Super Bowl halftime show,fog was subtracted and not added here. It was odd to see it go so fast after hanging around like a car salesman all day. The curtain was up for the final act.

Penned in by a fence made of driftwood, the only fitting material, the fifteenth tee needed to protect golfers from plunging into the sea. As they soon learned, this was not Mackenzie’s original tee, which was a bit inland to the left, but had been added later to produce even more drama. Hanging on the edge of the shore, it felt prone to collapse during a good squall, and must require constant maintenance and fortification. But for this higher cost, it handsomely provided a much better and fuller view of fifteen, the ocean, and the sixteenth in the distance. The original tee did not provide the same gangplank feeling, and reduced the scope of vision by about thirty degrees. They looked for the skull and crossbones flying in this pirate ship of a tee box.