300 years ago, some besotted Scots, having too much time on their hands, started whacking a feather ball around for fun. It seemed to catch on and in no time at all, they were stumbling around in sheep shit on the northern hills, while keeping warm by drinking a bottle of scotch as the icy wind swirled up their kilts and tickled their balls. The bottle would last for about 18 holes and hence the modern golf course layout was born.
About 350 years later, I fell in love with the game of golf. About 10 years ago, Sharon had decided that I needed to depart from my slothful habits and take up some form of exercise so off we went to Marty Keene’s Golf Academy in Williston for lessons. After the lessons came more lessons and endless trips to the driving range to hit balls but it was a slow sell. The main problem was that I did not know anybody who played.
One day my neighbor Marc asked me if I wanted to play golf one afternoon and so off we went to Cedar Knoll in Hinesburg for a round. It was a good day. Marc and I became friends, and I became addicted to golf.
Eventually, in my third year I payed my $600 and joined Cedar Knoll Country Club. It was anything but a country club. It was really a homemade local golf course which started out as a dairy farm and the owners who really knew how to grow things, got interested in golf and turned their farm into a golf course. I loved the place. I started showing up about three times a week to play, joined a men’s league and just got into it, and when I wasn’t playing, I would just hit balls on the practice tee.
One day as I was hitting balls, I heard from behind me “Nice shot!”.
It was Barry, the club pro complementing a shot I took as he was walking past me. Eventually, I began to take lessons from him and over a couple of years, My handicap dropped to almost respectable.
One year, Barry asked Marc and I if we wanted to have a Sunday regular round with him and Scott (who I did not know at the time). I was surprised and asked him why he would want to play regularly with an 18 handicapper and his reply surprised me.
“You are really serious about your game and are always trying to improve. You don’t see that with too many of the golfers around here.”
He was right. Cedar Knoll was a “blue collar” club and many of the members were in the building trades or had regular jobs, and golf for them was just drinking beer, being away from the wife, and hanging out with their friends.
So, every Sunday, the four of us would meet at 7:28 and play golf. I loved it!
In our fourth year of playing together, after the round and sitting on the deck drinking a beer, the subject of playing another course came up. Barry said there were plenty of wonderful courses for us to play at and he of course knew the pros who worked at them. A few weeks later, Barry asked if we wanted to play at this place called Country Club of Vermont. ” I know the pro there. He is a really nice guy and I think he can get us on.” I promise you it will be a real experience.”
The following Sunday, we met bright and early at the Williston car park, packed our clubs and drove up the interstate to Waterbury.
As we turned up the hill to the road leading into the club, I could see the front 9 on either side of me and immediately fell in love with it. It was by far the most beautiful golf course, I had ever seen. After the round, we had a beer on the deck of the clubhouse. overlooking the back nine with the mountains and Camel’s Hump in the distance. It was one of those rare beautiful serene moments which happen rarely and are remembered forever.
When I got home that evening, Sharon asked how it went. I told her the course was spectacular, I shot a crummy 95, I had a wonderful day, — I wanted to join.
“ Why not” she replied. “You really like to play golf, Why not at a nice club.”
I was floored. The next day I phoned the club and inquired about membership. A nice gentleman called back and invited me out the next day for a free round. I could just feel myself getting sucked in.
“I would never join any club that would have me as a member.” — Groucho Marx
I was not sure it was my scene or that I would fit in but on reflection, I had been a member at Cedar Knoll for the past 5 years and had still had not fit in. In the end, it was a “leap of faith” and I joined.
It did not take me long to find out how right I was. The first thing I noticed was that the members went out of their way to introduce themselves. It was not hard to find a game and the level of conversation had changed. I had moved from listening to people talk about football (which I never watched) to talking about business, wine, politics and football (which I still do not watch). People in the clubhouse would say hello instead of nod, behave like adults on the course instead of drunken slobs, tee times were respected and overall, it was a far more relaxing, friendly atmosphere.
My greatest thrill though is still driving up I-89 in the late afternoon, playing a round, and then sitting on the deck with a beer, watching the sun set while chatting to one of the members and thinking about my other great love— how to take a better photographs.
The photo you see at the top of the page is the men’s locker room at the Country Club of Florida in Boynton Beach. We play an inter-club tournament with the Country Club of Florida. Last September they had come up to play us in Vermont and now it was our turn to play them on their course. They were great hosts and at a reception for us, our club president was really impressed with their locker room (who wouldn’t be, most of Florida’s residents don’t have homes this nice). He came over to me afterwards and suggested I write something in my blog about it so this one’s for you Skip.
Somehow though, I think those scots really were into something and that over the years, it has been mostly forgotten. What I really love about golf in Vermont, is walking up and down about 4 miles of beautiful scenic Vermont golf links, with a golf bag on my back, in good weather or bad, and ending up in a club house quietly drinking a beer at the bar as I watch the sun set over Camel’s Hump. There is nothing like it.