The other nine
The word "golf" conjures images of radically overweight
white men wearing synthetic fibers while riding in motorized
carts. It's a four-letter word that brings to mind the continued
enslavement of the lower classes at posh, white picket fence
country clubs. Golf is a "game" that coronary candidate
John Daly can play extremely well while corrupt, corporate
CEOs boast of their ability at the "sport." It's something
that other people's parents play.
one of the unexpected and unplanned side effects of my
wife's pregnancy was my newfound addiction to this dirty
little game. During the course of a couple months during
her third trimester, golf first got my attention. And
though my daughter Skyler turns 2 this June (and curiously
can't stand more than five minutes on the links), the
problem is only worsening. But in my defense, things are
not always as they seem in La Plata County.
For the record, the
aforementioned corporate variety is not the game of golf that
enraptured me. I actually play a perverted Southwest
Colorado/Northern New Mexico variant. At the point in time when my
wife Rachael could no longer see her toes and had reached maximum
prenatal discomfort, I was conveniently escaping to the Hunter's
Run Golf Course in nearby Oxford. The scratchy nine-holer is one of
the only places in the world where the greens fee is roughly the
same price as a high-end box of fish sticks. It is also the only
golf course I know of where not one but two singlewides come into
play and present themselves as potential hazards on a
The place's charm is
obvious immediately. On the first hole, the men's tee is hidden
high above the fairway in a tangle of pi`F1on and juniper. Hitting
off a pizza box-sized square of grass, the player must thread his
ball down a 40-foot wide corridor cut through the trees. In a
vintage Hunter's Run twist, a player can put a slight fade on his
ball and bounce it off the roof of the clubhouse and cheat a couple
dozen yards out of the par 5. These little idiosyncrasies show up
all over the place.
But the real reason
Hunter's Run is beautiful and brilliant is that the stereotypical
golfer wouldn't give it even a passing thought. As evidence, I had
one such player mutter through his short goatee, "I don't go in for
that kind of pasture pool."
It's also beautiful and
brilliant because of its tiny greens and its wicked rough (I once
returned home with a four-inch gash spanning my face as a result of
too much Tecate mixed with a lost ball). These factors, and others
like seasonal absence of grass, result in a more than challenging
golf course. Take away the singlewides and the club house, and
Hunter's Run bears a strong resemblance to the game the Scots
originated hundreds of years ago on the land they called "links"
and considered too undesirable to be farmed.
Another favorite Four
Corners haunt of mine is the Hidden Valley Golf Course in Aztec.
Like Hunter's Run, Hidden Valley draws a predictable response from
the golfer we discussed earlier. "I don't know why you'd drive that
far to play at that hoedown," Ibeen told.
There are no doublewides
at Hidden Valley but Hole No. 5 is a treacherous par 5 split by a
deep ditch and accompanied by the constant sputtering of a gas well
Balls that go out of
bounds on the course are truly lost forever courtesy of the high
chain link topped with barbed wire surrounding the
The course lay-out is
tight and vaguely maze-like, and first timers are always easy to
spot as they wander around aimlessly battling the onset of madness.
With additional length and wildly undulating greens, Hidden Valley
is likely more difficult than Hunter's Run, and expletives
regularly echo around the grass acreage surrounded by sandy
On one trip to the "Big
A" as we affectionately call it, three of us had the pleasure of
approaching the snack bar and ordering three cans of domestic
"It's actually cheaper
if you get six," the woman behind the counter politely told
"Sounds good to us," we
"You guys want a cooler
and ice with that?"
Realizing we'd actually
died and gone to heaven, the hack job we then put on the next nine
holes didn't seem nearly as painful.
This spring I arrived at
Hidden Valley only to be greeted by a surprising capital
improvement at the course. As I got within earshot, I realized that
the club house now boasts an outdoor stereo. "Journey's Greatest
Hits" was searing at high volume through the speakers, and yes, I
was witnessing yet another first for American golf.
Steve Perry sang me
through hard times and extra strokes up the first fairway with the
band's prophetic "Wheel in the Sky." And as I enjoyed better times
on No. 3, en route back to the club house, Perry greeted me again,
this time with a cheerful "Don't Stop Believing."
On another occasion a
couple winters ago, Hidden Valley gifted me my favorite golf
memory. My brother and I found ourselves playing a final round at
"The 'Tec Center," as Josh likes to call it. We'd just hit our
shots off the No. 15 tee when four separate golf carts carrying one
occupant each approached the adjacent 18th. The carts were sheathed
in plastic and each sported mini-heaters. As always, Josh and I
were hoofing it, and I believe I was wearing shorts.
Out of the carts came
two pairs of Wranglers, one set of insulated Carhartt coveralls and
a shiny blue satin jacket. All four men were wearing cowboy boots,
and all four sported different flavors of foam trucker hats. They
all looked to be in their 50s and obviously knew their way around
Shocked and awed, Josh
and I watched as the satin jacket wearer tipped his cap at us,
approached the tee, dropped his ball flat on the surface, and with
no offering of a practice swing, uncorked 300 yards of the
straightest golf shot either of us had ever seen. Two others
followed suit, and the man wearing the coveralls did one better and
added around 15 yards to the shot. All four tipped their caps, got
back in their carts and went screaming down the fairway.
Ironically, those four
swings could have been comfortable and profitable on the Hooters
Tour or maybe even amongst the Senior Pros. But instead of pointing
their carts in that direction, those four seemed to gravitate back
toward the club house. After 18 holes, it's usually time to refill
the cooler, let the Wheel in the Sky spin a revolution and start it
all over again.