Devastating fires are a reminder to give thanks for the golf we’ve got

Fire damage in the Fountaingrove area of Santa Rosa.

For too much of October, I watched in paralyzed amazement as fires devastated Northern California.

Every time I woke up in the middle of the night, I quickly grabbed my cell phone to check the latest news. When I heard of more evacuations, I would think of who I knew in that area when I lived there.

And then there’s the golf aspect.

I saw the sickening sights of the charred clubhouse at Fountaingrove and the burning grandstand just after the completion of the Safeway Open at Silverado. I read about the damage at Mayacama. I wondered about the fate of the Bennett Valley and Oakmont courses as the Highway 12 corridor was evacuated.

This is not a time to bemoan the loss of golf facilities, of course. The loss of lives and homes and treasured memories is and should be the main topic of conversation.

But I think it IS a time to be thankful for the treasures not scorched by the fire … to not put off making new memories … to support, by all means possible, the golf courses that had to close during the fires … and to not forget about the many golf blessings we have up and down the West Coast.

One thing I thought about when I moved away from Santa Rosa nearly four years ago was all the golf courses I might not ever play again.

Bennett Valley was my home course. I played it at least a hundred times, probably more. Would I ever again do battle with the tough second hole, try to keep the ball below the hole on the dastardly fifth and 17th greens, or try to bend my drive around the eucalyptus on No. 7?

Windsor was a course that suited me well. I would miss the hilly terrain, the tough par-3s and the interesting 16th and 17th holes.

Fountaingrove and Oakmont beat me up at times, but I greatly respected their occasional ferocity.

You no doubt have courses you think about in the same way. Haven’t played them in awhile? Get out there!

What about courses you’ve never played? As the fire so devastatingly proved, what’s here today isn’t guaranteed for tomorrow. Put those courses on your must-play list.

And it’s not just playing our great game that should have your attention.

Think of all the opportunities you’ll have in the next 10 years to watch the pros. Pebble Beach just added the U.S. Women’s Open in 2023 and the U.S. Open in 2027 to the one it already had, the 2019 U.S. Open.

There will be many others on the West Coast: The 2020 PGA at TPC Harding Park, the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at the Olympic Club, the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club and the 2025 Presidents Cup at TPC Harding Park.

That’s a lot of golf to take in first-hand. You haven’t been to one of golf’s majors? Why not? It’s a fabulous experience, one not to be missed.

The same can be said for so many other golf experiences. If you’ve put off getting a taste of the amazing Monterey Peninsula golf scene, don’t put it off any longer. I haven’t played there in several years, and I think about it all the time. It’s an all-time great memory. I’ve got to go back someday.

There are so many California courses I wish I had played when I lived in those areas. My bad.

Don’t be left with similar feelings.

Homes will be rebuilt. Lives will be rebuilt. No one takes that lightly. The road ahead for Santa Rosa, Napa and points in and around them will be difficult.

But whenever you’re ready to start fresh – whether it’s now or several months from now – don’t forget that some golf courses are trying to get a fresh start, too.

At some point, it will be time to reset, stop checking our cellphones in the middle of the night and get back to taking advantage of all those sunny days.



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