Jack and his father would wake up earlier than anyone else in the house. While his dad made him his favorite breakfast (waffles with plenty of warm maple syrup) he would pack their clubs and golf shoes in the tiny trunk of his dad’s sports car. His clubs were always sparkling clean (his father taught him the importance of clean grooves from their very first round together) and his golf shoes were spit shined and gleaming.
After breakfast and a quick kiss on his forehead and his father’s lips from mom they would jump in the car and make the right-hand turn out of the neighborhood and down the winding back road rather than the usual left turn toward the ruler straight freeway. Dan felt that taking the slower route set the right pace for the day, unhurried.
Jack loved that right-hand turn. That turn was the sign that his favorite day of the week, golf day, had arrived again. Playing golf with his father was, by this time, his favorite thing to do. Sure, he loved the game itself, but more than that he just loved the entirety of golf day.
It seemed like every Sunday morning smelled just the same. A mix of fresh cut grass, morning dew and maple syrup. It was his favorite smell, a smell he would never forget.
“Well son, how you feeling today?”
“Feeling like an 89 today dad” was Jack’s reply every time, even though it was at least a dozen shots too optimistic…for now.
Dan relished the twenty-minute drive to the course. The road wound through the countryside, over small mounds and down gulleys, over streams and through farms that predated the country itself. Even though it was far from the Scottish countryside, he liked to imagine that these mounds mimicked those of St. Andrews and the other courses the game was first played on.
The drive got father and son into a zen-like state of mind. Maybe it was the gentle curves, left and right and left and right again. Maybe it was the hum of the wheels on the pavement at the same smooth speed each time (he never opened up his sports car’s engine with Jack in the car, didn’t want to give him any dangerous habits). Or maybe it was just the tranquility of a father and son enjoying one another’s company on their way to play the game they loved…together.
As the drive ended there was one last right turn into the club. The driveway to the clubhouse ran alongside the second hole, one of their favorites.
The creek that criss-crossed the entire course was at its most prominent, and ominous, on the second hole. Both father and son had put many a Titleist in the creek when their gentle draws were not so gentle. But they could never be too mad pulling a drive into such a beautiful collection of centuries smoothed rocks and babbling water. Instead, they always felt a twinge of guilt for spoiling nature with their impossibly white man-made pebble.
The creek was not only the most prominent feature on that hole, but was the element that connected the course and much of the surrounding acreage. For many centuries that creek had shaped the valleys all over the course and surrounding farmland and created the perfect terrain for 18 holes of stunning natural beauty. The course was one of the oldest around and looked every year of its age. The maple and elm trees reached well into the sky and blocked large portions of many of the fairways. These well-aged trees were far too thick for the son to believe his father’s saying that trees are 90% air.
Dan appreciated the majesty of the trees and the lushness of the creek watered grounds. This feeling of abundance was a far cry from his daily cocoon of minimalism and soundproof glass. On the golf course he could hear every sound, if he really listened. The sounds of the creek slowly ebbing and flowing, the leaves rustling in the breeze, of the grass giving slightly underfoot. These were sounds not easily heard in many places any more, maybe that’s why he loved the game, and this hole, so much.
Jack loved the hole for a more selfish reason…because he could easily fill up his golf bag with gently used golf balls by exploring the woods lining the right hand side of the hole. While he and his dad tended to find the creek, most of the club’s golfers found their natural slices accentuated in an attempt to avoid the creek. Whereas most of the members could barely see into the thicket of trees, Jack’s young eyes could spot balls like a hawk zeroing in on a field mouse. He would bolt into the woods right after his tee shot and emerge moments later usually with no fewer than a half dozen balls, more than enough to last him the rest of this round (and a good portion of his next). His father couldn’t help but chuckle and remember his own days combing hillsides of fescue and beds of pine needles looking for balls when he was that age.
On this day, the father hit his draw to a perfect position down the left hand side of the fairway leaving him a perfect angle at the back right pin position. The son blocked his out to the right and found the rough, making the hole both long and unnecessarily difficult.
The father wandered toward the water’s edge and walked alongside the creek, lost in the sounds of the water flowing slowing toward the green. He walked leisurely, enjoying his time with nature. Thoughts slowly drifted away, as if carried along with the water. The tranquility he felt beside this water was rare these days. The hustle and bustle of work, a job, family responsibilities. There was rarely a moment just to himself any more. He savored his peaceful 18 hole walks more and more each day. Four hours of calm in an otherwise frantic existence.
He glanced over toward his son, but saw only a golf bag standing up where his son’s ball had settled. The son had already disappeared deep into the woods.
The son was only half looking for balls on this particular expedition. Mainly he was enjoying the damp, cool darkness under the canopy of trees. He pretended he was an explorer winding his way west, venturing to unknown territory for the first time with his rifle/nine iron slung over his shoulder. He hid behind trees and kneeled down to see if he could see any animal tracks. There might even be Indians lurking just ahead he thought.
“Your turn son” the father said toward the unattended golf bag.
And just like that the son reappeared, three shiny new golf balls and one nine iron in hand.
They played their second shots, the son hacking his way out of the rough, back into the fairway, the father a perfectly positioned iron about twenty feet under the pin. They walked toward the green together in the fairway.
“How many balls did you find?”
“Just three, but I think I saw an Indian too.”
“You might have son, this area used to be home to lots of Indians. This used to be their land until it was settled by our ancestors.”
“I’m glad our ancestors came here Dad, I sure do like it. We have everything, golf, trees, creeks. It’s awesome!”
“I agree, it is awesome here. We are lucky to live in a place like this. Not everyone is lucky enough to be so close to nature as spectacular as this. Enjoy it.”
“Oh I do dad, I love it.”
They continued to walk the same direction as the creek flowed, and the breeze blew and they felt as one with each other and nature.
If there is a heaven, the father thought, this must be it.