Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Golfing Diaries: Mountain View Is Hell's Own Golf Course

Course Ranger
In my experience as a golfer, there's always a course or two that just does not work for you. Either the layout does not fit your game, there are holes that just perplex for club selection, or the slope and distance is just too much. Sometimes you come back for whatever reason, and maybe one day you break through and play better, but you still do not like it very much. It's one thing to not score terribly well, but it's quite another when the game just stops being golf, and becomes something that you are just looking to finish, rather than enjoy.

That's Mountain View for me, just outside of the Trenton airport. It's a muni that's in my county, and hence, one where I can play for a discount. It gets less traffic than the other, better muni that's closer, and it seems to be in decent shape... that is, until you set foot on the course.

Let's start with the layout. Mountain View has lots of back and forth par fours without much in the way of risk / reward. They are close enough to each other where you can make birdie from the wrong fairway, which means you have to keep your eyes open for other groups. The only thing you are doing here is trying to hit it straight... but the vast amount of landing area in the fairway is sloped, because it's mostly cut back and forth into the same hill. So what's in your head is that there really isn't a place to target, and when you land, it's just going to kick off anyway. From the tee, you are already annoyed, and there's also more than a few shots when you are blind coming back.

Signature hole? There isn't one. There's a par four with a carry over a fountain that might qualify, I guess. There's plenty of water, but none of it pretty. There's a par 3 on the front nine where the water carry is hidden, to the point where I found my ball in a pencil stream and wound up scrambling it out, but only after an armful of mud and a brush with something poisonous that caused my forearm to fire away for the next few hours.

Not appetizing enough yet? I'll go on. The greens are flat and boring. The bunkers aren't particularly well-maintained or fluffy. The refreshment cart zooms around the place, but I think the woman driving it today was pranking us, in that we saw her a half dozen times, and were 0 for our first 5 in attempts to flag her down for a damned drink.

That's what is involved in the place every day of the week. What's new today was *clouds* of swarming little flies. They kicked in on the second hole, and were pretty much in my eyes, ears, and crawling under the brim of my hat for about half of the four hours that we went around the track. They were in and out just often enough to be noticeable every time they came back, and went away just often enough to hope that was the end of it. But it never was.

In the front nine, you couldn't see why they were so omnipresent. Sure, there's water on the course, but not so much as to be plague levels. On the back nine, it all came together, with three different instances of stagnant water just sitting in the middle of play; on the throat of the green, next to the tee box, etc. All of these pools were just teeming with larvae, the clear breeding ground for player misery, and no one from the course seemingly giving a damn.

Do you know what would be better, Mountain View? Pouring sand on that. You are a golf course, and a well-trafficked one. Sand is not particularly expensive. One assumes that you have to buy a fair amount of it. Send a guy over, in a cart -- hey, you have those, too! -- with a bag and a knife. Use the knife to cut the bag. Pour the sand on the wet area. Voila! Maybe not so many clouds of flies in everyone's eyes, ears, nose and throat.

To be fair, I probably wasn't going to play a great round of golf anywhere today. I spent Saturday at a water park and the ocean with my kids, and the sunblock application was not perfect. I was stiff, tired, not terribly flexible and haven't hit a shot in a week. We didn't get there early enough to hit anything at the range, so my first few holes were particularly ugly. I brought bad game to a bad course, and what happened was bad golf.

But what usually happens in a bad round of golf is that there are a few shots that bring you back, when your muscle memory or simple luck kicks in and you get something that looks right. On the 18th, I put a wedge from 50 yards away within 10 feet of the hole with a pleasing arc, and my partner for the day laughed, because that's just the thing that happens. I didn't even want to putt it. I was just glad to get close to the pin, because that meant that I would be able to get the hell away from this place a few seconds faster.

That's the thing about bad courses. Life's too short to play on them. No matter how close they might be, or when you can get out for a round.

Sometimes, I have trouble sleeping. When I do, I visualize playing on the course where I've played the most. I imagine a remote view of myself, "see" my shots in the round of my life, go through my bag to pick different clubs, slow it down like it's a video game. When I do this, I also do some deep breathing exercises, and it becomes meditative and calming. I sleep.

I think if I ever tried to do this with Mountain View, I'd wake up screaming.

Do yourself a favor and stay away from the place, OK?

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