Chapter 13

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The length of the tee shot to this incredible par three made the hike they just finished seem like a sprint. They could understand why Alister had worries about it, and guessed he still was not fully convinced even after Marion Hollins, the female owner and developer, hit three balls in a row to the future green site. Hopefully, she was not hitting from the forward tees. From the current middle tees, a three wood did not feel nearly enough club for what their eyes said was the true distance. Could an all-water carry really so distort their depth perception? With no previous frame of reference, it was hard to believe their caddies who were claiming this was a mirage.

The real mirage was believing they had any chance of hitting and holding the green. At this distance, they needed a scope. Due to his own concerns, Alister had provided a safer routing left on to a fairway, though it was blind shot over a hedge of bushes that are now part of the current Cypress logo. But scoring was not the point of the round, so they all took a few shots at it, scope-free. Mishit balls here were not in trouble, they disappeared. It was an all-or-nothing shot, placing all the chips on one number. But the pay-off was large and enticing, so there would never be a shortage of takers. The bigger the jackpot, the more people play the lottery.

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Leaving the tee, they walked left around the small inlet to the peninsula leading out to the green. The bail out fairway on this strip of land was actually very open and funneled balls toward the hole, so it really was the best route to take. The original, single Cypress tree in the middle of it had sadly died a while ago, but was still held up by supports. Unlike the Ghost Tree further down 17 Mile Drive, this was not an interesting or artistic tree in its withered state, so why not take it down? It was the best fairway target off the tee, but the bushes in front were not bad. Maybe they were just waiting for the new tree planted next to it to grow taller, and it seemed unlikely it still stood because of an active betting pool about when it would fall. But maybe this was just like an old sweater or pair of shoes that have too many memories in them to throw out. They are old, worn out, and out of style, but wearing them always brings back long-forgotten feelings. Wooden and fabric time machines.

As they approached the green, head-swiveling views tested their neck muscles. Thankfully, no additional trees had been planted there, so this was a large, open strip to take in their surroundings. San Diego would come calling for this aircraft carrier when it was decommissioned. Right next to the putting surface, they learned there were two pocket-sized beaches on either side of the ballerina’s waist of the peninsula – a sandy tutu. Unnaturally small, these felt man-made until closer inspection. They did not know erosion could be a scalpel and not just an ax. Walking down the stairs on the left to the only accessible beach, they found many balls. Theirs were the ones not worn smooth like billiard balls, or as strong smelling as a cheap car freshener. Getting up and down from there, twenty feet below the green, would be almost as difficult as the tee shot. They were not successful doing this either.

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There are several pairs on this course. Impeccable tableware is required for a white cloth setting like this. The sixteenth and fourteenth greens are another set of salad and dinner forks, both circled by bunkers carved into a dune or hill behind it. These hazards were remarkably similar in shape and size, and seeing them again here was not disappointing like a summer rerun, but instead was like rereading a favorite book. Unlike the fourteenth green, this one was the largest, flattest and most circular in shape on the course. It needed to be after the most thrilling, horrific tee shot there is, and led to a quadruple mulligan par.

Looking back toward the tee, the hole did not seem as fearsome, impressive or long. Like an Escher print, there seemed to be some sort of optical illusion involved. Clearly a mainland backdrop does not create the same effect as open water, and the peninsula was now also in view, almost eliminating the pier feel of the hole. But maybe the core reason is what most open water swimmers experience – the swim out always feels longer and harder than the swim back in.