As the summer draws to a close and I bemoan the end of lazy summer days on the golf course, my friend, Jeff, will invariably interject, “But there’s still fall golf.”
Jeff speaks with an optimism that is genuine and energized, and I nod in agreement, but deep down in my soul, I know what fall golf truly is:
The rapidly decaying body of a summer filled with golf. With each golden leaf that spirals from the top of the sugar maples that line the 17th fairway, we take another step closer to winter and the end of another season on the fairways (but mostly the rough).
Fall golf is the aging, bastard stepchild of summer golf. It is summertime golf on life support. It is akin to a middle-aged man’s purchase of a cherry red Corvette in hopes of preserving some of his fleeting youth.
Nevertheless, I play. It is, after all, golf.
But I also agree that it’s odd that my friend, Andrew, and I have ventured onto the course on this particular November day wearing knit caps and coats. It’s occasionally chilly enough on an early morning of golf to warrant a jacket and perhaps even a knit cap, but this is high noon, and the air is still bitter and seeming to get colder by the second.
Not exactly golfing weather, and yet here we are, playing. Sucking the marrow from these final throes of another season. Trying to squeeze in one final round.
My wife questioned my decision to play as I left the house. “It’s a little cold for golf,” she warned. “Will the course even be open?”
“It’ll be open,” I assured her. Even if it wasn’t, we would sneak on and play. She doesn’t play golf, so she doesn’t understand.
I have spent the spring, summer, and fall walking miles with my closest friends. Complimenting their shots while secretly praying for bad bounces and impossible lies. We’ve laughed at terrible swings and freakishly terrible shots into gravitationally equipped ponds, menacing bunkers, and once, off the side of an unlucky waterfowl. We’ve shared stories, sought and offered advice, and commiserated on days that are harder than they should be. The golf course is where I stand between earth and sky and commune with nature while standing close to the men I love most.
This cannot happen anywhere else. If I called Andrew and asked if he wanted to get some coffee, he would assume that I was dying. If I called Jeff and asked him to go for a walk, he would run me over with his truck. If I called my friend, Plato, in hopes of chatting over the phone, he would likely change his number and never speak to me again.
We are men of a certain type. We enjoy one another’s company, but we can only do so if there is a small, white sphere to chase and a scorecard to mark our progress.
Still, it’s cold. As cold as I have ever experienced on a golf course before. When I chunk my 6-iron into the semi-frozen earth, my hands go numb and I cry out in pain. I secretly wonder if there is such a thing as golf mittens. I wish I had thought about foot warmers before I left the house.
Andrew laments the lack of a scarf. He whines a little.
Still, it’s golf.
We’re on the 15th green, trying not to shiver as we prepare to putt, when I notice the first flake.
It can’t be, I think. It can’t.
Then there is another. And another. It is. It can be. It’s snowing.
I’m playing golf in a snowstorm. Winter has raised its ugly head when we weren’t looking. Awful, cruel, unforgiving winter, with its short days, biting wind, and snow. Hateful, unreasonable snow.
I look at Andrew. He smiles. I do, too. It’s snowing, but still, it’s golf.
Our phones buzz simultaneously. We look at our screens. It’s Andrew’s wife, Kim, texting. She’s informing us that it’s snowing. We know this, of course. Better than most, since we are outdoors.
What she’s really saying is this:
“What would possess two otherwise reasonably intelligent men to play golf in the snow? Are you quitting? Coming home? Smartening up? Growing up? Please tell me you’re aren’t stupid enough to keep playing.”
Oh, yes, Kim. We are stupid enough and then some. We are not quitting. We are not coming home. We will play these last three holes in the snow if need be, because this decaying corpse of a golf season is gasping its last breath, and I feel honored to be here as it happens. Thrilled to have spent every last possible moment playing this game that I love with these men who I love more.
We play in the snow, damn it, because it is golf, and golf is perfect, even when played poorly in a snowstorm.
Illustrated by Sean Wang