One of the many perks of living on a golf course, besides the free balls, is being exposed daily to the sounds of golf.
The 15th tee is not too far from my patio, on the other side of the bushes. I can’t see the golfers, but I can hear them. So every chance I get, I open the sliding glass door and just … listen.
I picture my tee ball soaring down the fairway.
Funny how we’ve gotten used to it. When woods first became metals, that sound was strangely troubling, sort of like an electric guitar riff at a symphony. But now that it has been the norm for all these years, it’s a purr as much as a ping.
Some things don’t change, though. It’s still followed by one of two sounds. Either this …
My muscles relax. It’s almost as if I’m the one who caught it just right and sent it down the middle, as far as I can hit it.
Or this …
My muscles tighten. I certainly know what that feels like. That sound might be followed by this …
I live close enough to the tee to hear their banter but far enough down the fairway to be in the path of their errant shots. It needs to be a severe slice to bounce off the wall of my living room, but it has happened. This sound is more frequent …
That’s a ball that has landed in the bushes. I’ve got to believe there are hundreds of balls in there, and occasionally I’ve seen one that I can retrieve.
But I’m not going in any deeper for a simple reason: I have a feeling there are some other creatures slithering around in there, and I don’t need those balls that desperately – I get plenty of them in the wide-open areas on the other side of the building, off the 14th hole.
(Rule No. 1 of living on a golf course if you want to get a lot of balls: Live to the right of a hole. No. 14 is a dogleg left, and yet balls get sliced right to my doorstep all the time.)
Now that the group has teed off, I hear another sound …
To me, that’s not a happy sound. It’s another cart zipping by.
Just as we have become accustomed to the sound of the metal wood, we also have gotten used to driving carts when we play. So many courses require them now because the holes are so far apart … and because they want the extra income, of course.
The only good thing about carts, in my view, is that you can play faster. But they have robbed us of a valuable experience – the leisurely stroll up the fairway with our playing partners. They have taken away some of the banter.
Early in the morning, I don’t need to open the door to hear this …
The mowers are out early, often before dawn. It makes me realize that we don’t have enough appreciation for what a tough job that is and how beautiful our courses tend to be. We are so lucky. On the days when it’s wet and they can’t be out there at 5 or 6 a.m., driving down the fairway in the dark, we certainly notice.
The other day, it dawned on me that we have a new sound on the golf course. It has happened just this year …
Yep, it’s the ball hitting the flagstick. Think about it: How often did we hear that before January 1? Once a month? Once a year?
The only time it was possible before that was when someone made one from off the green – or, glory of glories, made a hole-in-one. Now that we can putt with the flagstick in, even when we’re on the green, it has joined the regular rotation of sounds.
My group probably is like most: We still took out the pin for almost every putt at the start of the year. It just didn’t feel right – it felt like a barrier.
But now that we’ve had time to get used to it, the pin gets left in most of the time, especially on longer putts and always on downhill putts. Just the other day, I heard that magical sound on a 40-footer. It’s not as glorious as a hole-in-one, which I’ve never experienced, but it’s still glorious just the same.
The next time you’re out there, pay attention to all the sounds you hear. Stop and look, but especially listen. I hope they’re happy sounds. They should be, even when you don’t play your best. There should be jokes. There should be laughter. It should sound as if you’re having fun. It’s not meant to be a slog.
Or if you’re driving past a golf course, open the window and listen for that sound of driver-to-ball. There’s nothing quite like it. It’s yet another perk of our great game.