Monday, August 3, 2009

Am I that spoiled?

Am I that spoiled?

By Michael Donovan

Brunswick, Georgia lies on the fringe of a superb golf region. Numerous, world class golf courses dot the ocean front property from the Florida state line to South Carolina but somehow I wound up in Brunswick. Please understand that I think Brunswick is charming. The people are warm, prices are reasonable to downright-cheap but the golf is somewhere south of “Muni.” In fact, I can’t really come up with a word for it except “Spartan.”
Coastal Pines Golf Club (I swore I wouldn’t name names but…) sits inland just off highway 95 in Brunswick, Georgia. I’m not sure how the name was chosen. The course is nowhere close to “coastal but there are an abundance of pine trees, so… you decide about the name.
The “clubhouse” is a double-wide, which prompted me to ask the man behind the counter just how long the course had been open. “Guess we opened about 7:00 AM today,” he replied, glancing at his watch. Clearly I don’t speak Southern but I am gentleman enough to not make fun of people so I got my answer from some of the literature tossed about the check-in. Coastal Pines opened in 2001 and was quickly voted as “One of Georgia’s Top Golf Bargains.” Translated that means…Cheap Golf! The Greens Fee was a modest $15 with an additional $18 for a cart with GPS. Since that price is roughly $13 cheaper than a dozen of the balls I am used to playing, nothing should have surprised me from there… but it did.
I have grown accustomed to a dress code that prohibits denim. Here in Georgia, the home state of the Masters, I was shocked to follow a 4-some in which one of the players wore bib overalls and high-top boots! Guess the Back-40 and the Back-9 can run together out here? I bought two bottles of water before we teed off. It was lucky that I did. We stumbled upon the “beverage cart” on the 11th hole. Believe me; we would have perished from thirst waiting for a beverage cart to roll up. From where we stood, I guessed that the cart hadn’t moved for at least a year. The weeds were just starting to stake their claim to the chassis.

It took me until the 13th hole to find a greenside bunker, finding a rake for that bunker was far more difficult. Truth be told, the rake hadn’t be used, or even moved for quite some time. It took me awhile to pull it from the grass, which had begun to grow over it, and finally prying the rake free revealed an exact impression of the rake in the ground. The grass had actually grown AROUND the rake. I didn’t rake another bunker all day, fearing that I might somehow upset a delicate ecological balance in the process.
After a drinking fountain on #7 proved to be for looks only, we were nearly overcome with thirst, when we found the “water station” on #15. It was an Igloo cooler chained to a post. Although I was wary of the water within, I drank deeply because the Georgia sun and humidity had me well parched. I am 100% certain I will require a doctor’s visit in the very near future but, at the time, it was a lifesaver. Even warm, sort-of -yellow water is great when you’re parched.

We finished the round in less than 4 hours. Honestly, the layout wasn’t half bad. The Par-3 holes were the most difficult as well as the most interesting and the Par-5s were all healthy, 3-shot, holes. Sure, this was no Augusta National but hey, for the price it was fun.

It reminds me that it doesn’t take a beautifully manicured and maintained track to enjoy a round of golf. You still have to hit the shots and make the putts. Coastal Pines, for all that it wasn’t, was still golf at it’s roots. I saw more children with great golf swings there than I ever have at any pricey resort course or private club. The game is played the same, the rules remain the same, the etiquette doesn’t change and you still have to strike the ball to score well. I realize how spoiled I have become as a member of a private club and how lucky I have been to play the game in such great conditions. But, when you put your clubs in the trunk and linger over a cold beverage at the end of the round it’s really all the same.
It is what is different about golf that makes it great. It is what is different about a golf course that makes it fun. When I look at the scorecard now, I chuckle because, well, it’s 4 ½” X 7” printed, black on white on plain white paper. Heck, it sure isn’t fancy but it does give you plenty of room to write and all the basic information you need to play. Well, almost all the information. With no real markings on the tees you had to match the lay-of-the-land against the GPS screen to be certain of playing the correct hole.

As we drove back towards the double-wide to unload our clubs, I noticed a young man and a young girl holding hands next to the driving range. On the putting green, I saw two children who were probably no older than 8 or 9 years old, playing putting games against an older man, perhaps their grandfather. In fact, the group ahead of us all day had a teenager playing and that kid had a really sweet swing. So, at the end of the day, it has to be a “Thumbs-Up” for “Muni” golf and Coastal Pines. Without courses like these many of us would never have learned to golf. I surmise that we all have a place like Coastal Pines in our lives. Without which, we might never have developed our love affair with the greatest game ever invented, the love affair that brings back to those courses again and again and again, for as long as we play.

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