I recently got in touch with a good friend of mine with whom I’ve been playing phone tag for most of this year. With her birthday at the end of this month and mine at the end of next, we usually schedule a combined birthday dinner where rather than I pay for her and her pay for me, we just split.
She let me know we wouldn’t be able to get together until early May because she was taking a golfing vacation with her friend up in north Florida. That brought back memories of my own, lone golfing “vacation” and guess what? Yup, I’m spinning that tale for you today!
My compadre for the trip was my buddy I introduced you all to in “Bowling for Dollars”. In those days, his back was less debilitating and his golf game was more impressive. Like my friend from the beginning of this post, we considered courses in Alabama, Georgia and other areas before settling on a less taxing location (both financially and travel time) in Orlando.
Being near the middle of summer, the courses were not especially busy, which made the package more attractive. We were in for a full round on Friday, up to two rounds on Saturday and another round on Sunday. 72 holes of golf, unlimited range access, a stay at the hotel (and full use of all facilities) and all just a few hours from home.
We had three courses to choose from and we wasted no time dumping our stuff in the room…we just headed right out to the links. Sadly, back then, I was less “trained” than I am now. Basically, my swing was cobbled together from some stuff from when I was a kid, some occasional reading of golf magazines and whatever instruction my buddy could hammer into my brain.
I am a lefty, which made learning golf from a righty difficult. My brain just didn’t take the concepts well. Ironically, it was my friend from the start of this post who gave me a birthday present some years ago of lessons with a golf pro. The pro fixed many of the problems I had so expertly “learned” and exhibited during my golfing getaway (one of the worst of which was a huge slice off the tee, which as a lefty just made life pretty miserable).
It was hot and sweaty out on the course, but we had a ball. I got more value out of the round than my friend, since my cost per stroke was lower. Amazingly, despite my wildness, I managed to go the entire round with only one ball, a first at that point in my golfing “career”
On Saturday, we popped out to a different course, extra early, as we had designs to sit out by the pool during the day before hitting the second course after lunch. Now, it should come as no surprise that two ordinary 40-something working class guys were not exactly lighting it up on the beefcake meter, so it was with some surprise as we watched a bikini-clad nubile young lass make her way towards where we lay on lounges.
Our puzzlement was swiftly dispelled as she merrily chatted with us about the amazing tan cream she had with her. She made it a point to inform me that I had a terrific “farmer’s tan” (the very first time I had heard that expression). She offered to apply the cream on us, to which my friend declined, I’m proud to say, offering to her the information that he was married. He suggested me, Mr. Single, as a potential customer and she turned delicately in my direction, but I also declined. She smiled and moved away (with relief, I assume).
I have to say I found the whole incident a bit bizarre. First, what kind of crappy job is that to go around and slop tan cream on out of shape, pale (nearly) middle-aged men? Second, what kind of sales pitch is that to possibly embarrass a (potential) customer by pointing out his “farmer’s tan”? Forget it lady, we’re here to golf, not tan.
The second round was fun, but long. The sun was beginning to set as we hit the 17th hole and we were bushed. We considered passing on Sunday’s round, but decided we wanted to get full value out of our trip (plus, who can pass up playing “free” sports when it’s available?).
If only we had just gone home.
Off we went, relatively early, since we still had to drive back home. We were about seven holes in and our respective shots once more put us very far apart. I had shanked myself off near the edge of a hill and pond, well to the right of the fairway, nearly into some bungalows that probably housed longer-staying guests. My buddy, as usual, was nicely situated in the fairway. I dropped him off with a club by his ball and drove the cart to both find my ball and determine which club I wanted to mishit next.
I located the ball, on a sidehill lie, and parked the cart. Deciding on the better part of valor for once, I chose a shot iron, intending to simply punch the ball back into the fairway. Of course, employing one of my (then) poor habits, I cheated a peek too soon and topped the ball another 30 or 40 yards up in the rough.
My buddy was mercifully mum about my terrible play, but then he swung his arms wildly, pointing behind me. I turned and froze, a bad thing, since the cart I had apparently not set the parking brake on, was not-so-slowly rolling down the hill into the pond. By the time I got there the entire cart was submerged. It was still visible, mind you; it was a pond, not a lake. Still this was a dilemma, since it also had our golf bags attached, within which were our wallets.
I won’t describe how I felt at that moment, my friend and I standing on the edge of the pond looking at the white top to the golf cart just below the algae-colored surface, but it wasn’t particularly cheery.
A man came running frantically out from one of a bungalow. He excitedly told us he saw the whole thing. After a few more exclamations, he told us to just “hang on”. He ran back to his place and we waited for him to call the pro shop. A few moments later he came running back holding his camera and taking pictures.
My buddy and I looked at each other and then watched as this guy continued to snap pictures and babbled about how crazy this was. Already in a less than upbeat mood, I asked him if he had called the pro shop when he went inside. He didn’t even look up, just shook his head. I’m sure I clenched my hands a few times and my buddy saved me by telling the guy to go call for help. My friend is more imposing than me, so the guy looked up and bustled away.
We’ll wrap this story up quickly from here. The pro shop had to send a person into the water, literally underwater, to hook a chain to the submerged cart and then tow the cart backwards out of the pond. My buddy tipped the diver with a soggy twenty and, surprisingly, we weren’t charged for the incident. Perhaps my insistence that I had set the brake and it must not have worked (and the lack of evidence to the contrary) worked in our favor. I think it was simply that it was our last round and the people were just satisfied to see us go.
It’s been a more enjoyable tale to tell than it was actually experiencing it. Perhaps not so oddly, I’ve never been on another golfing vacation.