Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Golf Diaries: The Magic Revisited

The Diabolical Third
The golf course that I've played the most in my life is the Olde Course at Cobbs Creek. Cobbs is a 120 slope rating, about 7K yards from the blues (not that I play from the blues, but you get the gist), with water on the first six holes that's always in play (a meandering creek that's everywhere you don't want it to be), and a price tag that can not be beat. The reason why the price is that way is because Cobbs is on the edge of a poor neighborhood, constantly under new management, always overbooked, and the scene of any number of things that just are not golf.

Here are a few of the things that have happened to me at Cobbs:

> Driving the green on the elevated par 3 17th, only to find two massive stray bull mastiffs sitting on the back of the green, leading to the most nervous two putt of my life

> A homeless guy with more matted fur and hair than a nightmare Muppet, jumping up and down and screaming during my address, just, well, because

> Golfing partners who felt compelled to show me their sidearm before the start of the round, because, well, Cobbs

> Chipping into a bucket in the middle of the fairway, as some bizarre interpretation of Winter Rules

> Hitting a skulled 8-iron that followed the cart path over for a water carry and par chance that defied all laws of physics

> Hooked drives into driving range nets that produced fairway drives and a slot machine-esque payoff of balls for the shag bag

And so on. My fondness for Cobbs is boundless, because I've had some of the best moments of my golfing life there, and I've had days that in no way resembled golf. You never know what you are going to get, but the reward is usually worth the risk.

Finally, there's this. The challenges that Cobbs offers is, frankly, beyond my skill level. It was a PGA Tour stop all the way up to the mid'50s, and people have hacked their way through this course for the better part of a century. There are old growth trees and pothole cart paths and intermittent cart service and unlikely water cooler fills, and so on, and so on. Catch it on the wrong day, and you might never want to play again. Absolutely irresistible, because on some level, I need to beat this course. My friends and family have heard enough about this that we've developed a shorthand for it: The Magic of Cobbs.

I wanted to get a round in this morning before wasting my afternoon on the Eagles. As I live over an hour away from the place now, and going to play a dodgy golf course is not exactly something you can sell to others, I knew this was going to be a solo trip. A web site offered up a slot at Cobbs for 7am, which is to say, before the sun is even up. From reviews on the site, I know that the current management, like all before it, are prone to overbooking the course , so I got there at 6:30am, only to be told that somebody was "doing something" on the course, so we weren't going to get out until 7:20. Which meant there were four groups -- one every seven minutes, like every wildly overbooked course -- watching me when I teed off with the first group. (I also, by the way, didn't leave the counter for the entire 40+ minute wait. You can't give a place like this the opportunity to screw you. They just, well, will.)

The first at Cobbs is a 450-yard par 4/5; it's a par 5 from the blues, with the creek bisecting the hole at the 220 mark, just to tempt the big hitters into disaster. Cobbs is like that at a lot of places, really. I clubbed down to the 3-wood and hit my best drive of the day, and from that moment on, I knew the rest of the day was gravy. A 5-iron water carry to set up a wedge to the green, and I'm not noticing the 40-degree chill or the morning dew wetness everywhere -- seriously, my feet were freaking soaked. A crazy fast green and hill lead to putts off the green, but it didn't matter. The great gamble that is Cobbs was paying off.

For the next five holes, that's more or less what happens. A lot of good ball striking, very good short work, and just enough poor luck involving water and putting to keep the scores from being actually good. We whipped through the first six holes at pace, then got six players just dumped on us as part of a tournament shotgun start, at which point our quick pace went down the tubes. The Magic of Cobbs! Anyway, I was able to avoid disaster, and shoot 48 for the front nine -- just about the best score I've ever managed there.

I lost balls and found others. I kept drives in the air and followed crap shots with good ones. I enjoyed my playing partners, who were just better enough than me to not make me feel self-conscious; one of them might even hire my wife for weddings (she's a harpist and plays them) and/or join my poker game. We finished in a little over four hours, or just about the fastest I've ever played Cobbs on a weekend. I'd go back. Hell, I might go back next weekend.

Oh, and I shot 100 with no pars, because I bogeyed half of the course, and didn't have any true disaster holes.

I may not be good enough to play Cobbs. But I'm getting closer.

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