Friday, August 31, 2007

Golfer's Nirvana

If you're a baseball fan, wouldn't it be great to play in a pick-up game at Yankee Stadium? If you're a football fan, wouldn't it be great to get your friends to play a touch football game with you at the Rose Bowl? If you're a basketball fan, how about you and your B-ball buddies dribbling and shooting at Madison Square Garden? Well, I just had the equivalent experience for a golfer - Oakland Hills Country Club, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

This past Wednesday and Thursday, courtesy of a true friend from Mt. Lebanon High School's Class of '62, I played the north and south courses at Oakland Hills, site of the 2004 Ryder Cup Matches (we lost!) and 13 championship tournaments. Among the winners of these tournaments were Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus. And, on Thursday, I had my own little championship round and golfed my ball down the same manicured fairways that these legendary characters did.

It was a perfect day, partly sunny with temperatures in the mid-to-high 70's and a noticable wind. My three partners and I warmed up on the practice range and teed up our balls in the shadow of the huge, magnificent white-columned clubhouse. My first drive found the fairway, and that was the start of a round to remember. There were lots more drives in the fairway, several of them over 250 yards, and a few great shots from the fairway and the sand bunkers. The greens, which were severely undulating and cut short and fast, let me take 35 putts on them during the 18 holes. I also pitched my ball onto a green only to watch it roll all the way across and into the water for a penalty stroke. We played from the blue tees (6,819 yards), and I shot 93 with four pars, six bogies and an eight on one par-five. Golfer's Nirvana.

I've played on just about every kind of golf course in existence - burned out Texas tracks where the ball never stops rolling, municipal 9-holers with wire fences protecting golfers from other golfer's errant shots, a bunch of good and better country club courses, and a few of the big names like Oakmont, Harbour Town, Spyglass, TPC Sugarbush, and Oak Hill. Oakland Hills is the big daddy if you count the whole package - the gorgeous grounds, the luxurious clubhouse, and the difficult, perfectly-maintained golf course. Yesterday was a day for the memory book, and I owe my old friend a lot for giving me an experience to savor for a long time.

Some people may quarrel with the idea of exclusive places like Oakland Hills, places that few ever get a chance to experience. Yet the world would be less beautiful without Oakland Hills, and it provides a huge number of good jobs for people in the area. For me, it provided an opportunity to test my golf skills to the utmost in the company of friends. I bet you even those champions mentioned above would have said "good shot" a few times, had they been watching my golfing dream come true.


Dave said...

I'm envious. I get to play a private, prestigious course in Atlanta next month. Courtesy, as with you of a friend, who has a friend.

The greens were your worst enemy. I have to figure out how to putt on perfect and fast greens, seeing as how I play on imperfect and medium greens on a regular basis.

Ron Davison said...

I'm not a golfer, but you made the course sound wonderful. It's funny how place can change who we are. By 5 we learn to be different in church than on the playground. You were on a course played by champions and played like one, which sort of makes sense.