This year was my sweetie’s turn to plan our anniversary activities. I was expecting a getaway to someplace romantic and/or secluded, a weekend away for just the two of us. Which it turned out to be, in a manner of speaking, but with a twist I was totally unprepared for. We were spending the weekend at a resort. Not just any resort, but a golf resort. And not just any golf resort, but Waterwood National. Big deal? Well, yes, it is—she knows that Waterwood is my favorite course to play in the entire state of Texas (at least among the courses I’ve had the pleasure of playing over the past twenty years). An early Pete Dye design, and one of the tougher golf courses you’ll find around these parts.
Oh… and my sweetie doesn’t play golf. Yes, I love her.
We used to play Waterwood regularly during the district and regional playoffs when I played in high school, but it had been since my senior year since I’d last played the course. However, as soon as I stepped foot on the course Friday afternoon, it was as if nothing had changed. The course was exactly the way I’d remembered it, and that was a very good thing. The condos down the side of the first fairway. The lake in front of the clubhouse, backing the ninth and eighteenth greens. The towering pines… everywhere.
Coming into the weekend, it had been about two years since I’d even hit a golf ball, so Saturday morning, it was time to head to the practice range to shake off two years of rust. And oh, what inglorious rust it was. Shots were coming off of my clubface that had never come off my clubface in over twenty years of playing golf. Volley after volley of ugly shanks, barely getting twenty yards off the tee box before veering horribly to the right. I had never before hit shots like this. Ever. Even my very first rounds of golf in my life, ugly as they were, never looked or felt like this. Something was terribly wrong. I was in trouble. Waterwood was going to eat me alive, and it’d be years before they found the body.
But then something clicked. Something long forgotten started to surface. The shanks turned into slices. The slices turned into ugly fades. The ugly fades turned into something I’d thought impossible an hour ago—the long, high shots that turned to the right ever so slightly before plopping satisfyingly on the ground. Five irons, 8-irons, wedges—plop, plop, plop. There was hope yet. OK, time to pull out the lumber (well, the metallic lumber). First, the 3-woods. Ooookay, not so good there… ah, that’s better. And so was that one. That one, too. Alrighty then, let’s try the big stick, the driver. Hey, not too shabby! Up and down the clubs again… yeah, that’s the way it should look! Sure, some real stinkers popped up once or twice after that, but on the whole, it was good. I was happy. I may not burn up the course the next day, but I’d at least look respectable, and that was enough.
Sunday morning, it was an early wake-up, then off to the practice range to get in a few more swings before my first round back at Waterwood. As expected, the first couple of hits were clunkers, but then my body remembered what we’d worked on the day before, and I was soon hitting high, gracefully arcing 5-irons and wedges out into the distance. A couple of practice tee shots, and then it was off to the first tee.
Nervous? Sure. It was my first real swing on this course in many, many years, and as a tourney was teeing off about half an hour behind me, there was something off an audience. I grabbed a 3-wood (not quite ready to pull out the big stick first thing in the morning…), and lo and behold, I managed to smooth a tee shot down the fairway. A bit more of a fade than I’d been going for, but not too bad all things considered…
Only that’s not what happened.
No, I didn’t hit some ugly shank into the woods. Or even a scared-of-heights wormburner into the grass. No, I never hit the tee shot at all, for while warming up on the practice tee prior to the round, I managed to tweak my back, aggravating an old (golf-related, of course) injury for now the third time. The last couple of practice shots were indeed high and gracefully arcing, but they also hurt like hell. So ten minutes before my tee time, I had to beg off and cancel.
The ultimate cosmic joke, and not a very funny one at that. Close enough that I could literally bend down and touch the grass (well, not that morning, as bending down was not really high on my list of things to do after the tweak) and still as close to playing the course as I’d been the past twenty years—which is to say, not at all.
But it was still a very, very nice weekend away with my sweetie, golf or no golf. And I will be back—and with my golf fires now rekindled in earnest (which my wife admitted was the whole point), I’ll be back in proper shape to tackle this monster of a course.
Thank you, sweetie. For the weekend—and for the reason we were celebrating this weekend in the first place. I love you.