Monday, November 28, 2005

My friend’s bad habits are wearing off on me. He is in the habit of checking the weather in far away places. Weekend and ten day forecasts are among his internet favorites, and rarely do they apply to his home zip code.

I suppose I am jumping the gun. Let me get back to where it all started, the week before Thanksgiving. My friend, Jeff, and I played a municipal course he had raved about near Tacoma, Washington. We both live in Seattle and he had assured me that the hour drive to Lake Spanaway was worth it. At the risk of getting off topic, he was right; Lake Spanaway would easily have been the best course I played last week if not for the events that transpired the Saturday after Turkey day.

When Jeff and I played we talked about what we always talk about: Bandon, Oregon. You see, besides our unbridled passion for the game, Jeff and I share an affinity for the Bandon golf courses along the southern Oregon coast. Jeff informed me that the weather had been terrific for almost two weeks in Bandon. He knew I was traveling to Eugene for family and festivities and thought I should keep an eye on the Doppler radar. I agreed. I was half-hearted about it because Bandon is expensive, a bit far away, and certainly not my first priority over the holiday weekend.

Unlike Jeff, my affection for the Bandon courses grew from afar. When I started playing golf I heard about them. My Dad found out I was interested in playing them and he began clipping articles, emailing reviews, and generally encouraging me. I was not a good enough golfer, I told myself, to justify the expense involved in a “Bandon Trip.” Well, last summer I played a lot. My schedule freed itself and my game began to flourish. I befriended a pro, played 5 or 6 times a week, and lived at the range. My game got better, my index fell, and my confidence soared. The day I shot 80 from the tips of my local municipal I finally decided to make my way down to southern Oregon.

Then my life got in the way, the trip got postponed, and my time evaporated. I was lucky to get a round in every few weeks and the clubs started to feel foreign in my hands. The problem was further compounded when my estranged clubs were stolen from my car. Insurance provided a new set, but new clubs, inconsistent play, and cooler weather did not bode well for my game. In short, the timing was awful a month ago when my Dad called and told me that he was getting a deal and I needed to head down.

I finally got my chance to play Bandon. Due to outside circumstances I was able to play just one round and it was on the newest course of the three, Bandon Trails. I had prayed to break 100 and came away with a spectacular 92. Good weather and good play snuck in that day and I have been all smiles ever since. Of course, my golf game fell apart immediately thereafter. I began finding time, squeezing rounds out in the rain, and trying to get back to my mid-summer form. I even traded my ‘new’ clubs in for a set more like the ones I had lost. Nothing worked, my scores grew and my swing was leaking oil fast.

Then, despite failing swing and suffering confidence, I checked the Doppler this weekend and decided to make a break for it. One thing I have learned, when a course like Bandon Dunes is within your grasp, let your golf swing worry about itself and go for it. I drove two and a half hours through the rain, barely trusting the satellite images I had seen just hours before. Nevertheless, my excitement grew as I turned south on 101. When I passed Coos Bay the sun broke (of course it did) I knew something special was in store.

I walked on as a single with a choice of tee times. Late November may be the best time of year to sneak in18 at Bandon. The temperature never dropped below 55 degrees and my excitement seemed to keep the clouds at bay. I chose a time an hour out and went to the practice facility. Bandon might be worth the drive for the range and putting area alone. I was practicing a twice breaking 90 foot putt when I realized I only had a few minute before my tee time.

I rushed to the tee, shock my playing partners’ hands and tee’d off. I played inspired golf. I might have to bronze the putter. Every mistake was followed by a smart decision and the golf gods’ praise. I scored par on a tricky dog-leg after a penalty drop and a blind approach that scared the hole on its way to resting six feet left and hole high. Did I mention that six feet was a gimmie that day? Ladies and gentlemen, it was a day that will keep me coming back for years. After all, imagine if I had showed up with my game in tune? Next time, a real review of either Dunes or Trails, maybe both…

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