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Wisconsin/Michigan Golf Trip, Day Two: Serenity Now

8/11/2008

This game will drive you crazy if you let it. Right now, you've got three guys who are on the brink of insanity.

I've been trying not to let my poor play get me down. I haven't been worrying about my score, just focusing on enjoying the sunny weather, the great outdoors, good friends and good times. And for the most part, it's worked out well for me. I'm having a great summer enjoying mediocre golf. At least that's what I keep telling myself. Maybe it's like Lloyd Braun repeating 'Serenity Now'...sooner or later I'm going to snap.

We spent the second day of our golf trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, playing 36 holes at Greywalls in Marquette. After playing Da Bull on Saturday afternoon, we made the 4 1/2 hour trek from Sheyboygan up to tippy-top of the U.P. We left the Sheboygan Chili's (the very same Chili's that Jefe and I dissed me after Blackwolf Run last year. I thought they were going to make me wait in the car this time.) at 7:30 and didn't roll up to the Holiday Inn in Marquette until after 1 am Eastern. Working on about 3 1/2 hours sleep and playing 36 holes, we were lucky to make it there alive. Jimbo was in the zone during the final stretch, completing tuning out everything but the road ahead.

None of us fully realized just how long of a hike it was up to Marquette until we were well on our way, and I began to question whether this golf course would be worth going so far out of the way. But I'm happy to report that Greywalls delivered the goods. You gotta play this course.

Greywalls sits on a great rocky site above Lake Superior. Driving into the place, however, you might think that you were at the wrong course. Greywalls is part of Marquette Golf Club, which has two completely different golf courses. The Heritage Club is an old-school course built in the 1920's. You turn into the entrance and pass some very non-descript holes and an old-school clubhouse. We followed the signs with an arrow pointing to Greywalls, expecting an alternate clubhouse. If we had gone the way I told Jimbo to go, we would've been driving down the cart path leading to the 1st tee. It turns out that they will be building a new clubhouse just behind the 18th green of Greywalls, but they have to get power and water out to that part of the course. For now, you check in at the other course and the head pro takes you out to the first tee.

The cart ride out to the first tee is at least five minutes, and you pass a number of holes along the way. It provides the perfect preview of what Greywalls is all about; wide, wild undulating fairways and holes the go over, above and around giant rock outcroppings. The property is unique and provides a number of jaw-dropping vistas. Architect Mike Devries did a great job routing the course on what had to be a rugged and very difficult piece of land to work with.

But Greywalls isn't just eye candy. It's a great course chocked full of quality golf holes. The 'Wow' factor puts you in the right frame of mind off the tee, then you finish playing the hole and you can't help saying, 'Boy, that was a lot of fun.' The front nine is one dramatic hole after another. The first is a long, downhill par 5 with a wild rolling fairway. The 2nd is a brutally tough par 4 with a green tucked away to the right but a fairway and green that let you funnel shots down to the hole. The 4th is a dogleg par 4 that runs below the length of a rock cliff. Then you try to hit up and over the cliff on the short, potentially drivable 5th hole. The 6th hole is a beautiful par 3 from an elevated tee on top of the rocks and across a giant ravine. The 7th plays back downhill and over a giant rock outcropping. 8 & 9 are shortish par 4's, the latter with a skyline green with views of the Lake behind. Overall, you'll be hard pressed to find a better nine holes than the front nine at Greywalls. The back nine isn't quite as dramatic and perhaps a half-notch behind the front, but offers a stern test (especially the 240-yard par 3 15th hole, where I had to hit driver off the tee) and a fun 18th hole, a reachable downhill par 5 with a domed green completely open to shots from any and all directions. In round two, I gave 'driver off the deck' a shot for the first time in years and managed to hit a screaming fade that stayed about 4 feet above the ground the whole way, rolling off the back edge of the green.

Greywalls seems to be the complete opposite of Erin Hills in terms of service, attitude and fun factor. Whereas Erin Hills forces you to grind it out, Greywalls gives you a little more room and some different options off the tee, as well as the opportunity to use the ground game on your approach shots (a trademark surprisingly absent from the links-style Erin Hills course.) Plus, the swirling winds off Lake Superior add another interesting element to the round.

I wish I could say the quality of the golf played matched the quality of the course, but it was more of the same for me. One or two good swings followed by two or three poor swings that killed my non-score. just when I thought I had a swing thought I could stick with, I'd duck hook one into the trees. Did I mention that during day one I didn't make a single birdie? 36 holes without a bird and counting. And round one at Greywalls provided very few opportunities. Any rare birdie opportunity that I did get was usually followed by a very good putt that lipped out or burned the edges. On the last hole of the first round, I hit a good drive and then a 3-iron to about 10 yards short of the green. What was left was a relatively simple chip that I'd get up and down at least 6 times out of 10. And only about 1 out of 10 times would I leave the chip woefully short, blow the birdie putt 10 feet past the hole and miss the comebacker to finish with a three-putt bogey. Unfortunately, this was one of those 10 times.

In a prior life, I'd probably be helicoptering a club down the fairway or baseball batting my ball into oblivion with my putter head, but this is the new Jim Colton. Serenity Now. Serenity NOW! But 54 holes without a birdie will test the limits of any golfer. There's only so much a man can take.

The second round at Greywalls went better for each of us (I'd like to take credit for jedi-mind tricking the pro shop into letting us move our second tee time up an hour by delaying the group that was supposed to tee off at 1:00 pm, but in reality I think it's because the folks there are just really, really nice people), but each hole passed and I was still birdie-less. The pressure was mounting. The front nine came and went. 63 holes and still nada. A lip-out on 16 was almost too much to take. Could the game of golf bring a grown man to tears? A few more holes like this and we'd soon find out.

Thankfully, I managed to hole out a 25-footer on the short par 3 17th for a deuce, and the first birdie of the trip. It was one of those putts that you never think has a chance until it suddenly drops in. I fell to the ground and laid on the green in the fetal position, and had to fight back the tears of joy from having the weight of 71 long and hard holes lifted from my shoulders. All along, I thought the lack of a birdie putt would drive me to insanity, when in actuality making one is what finally did it.

It turns out that I'm not alone. Jimbo and Jefe each have about as much emotional golf baggage as Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia combined. Jefe is no surprise, but I always thought Jimbo was pretty stable. However, during the round at the Bull, he made us aware that he has golf demons in his head that come out on bad shots. After one particularly bad tee shot, he introduced us to Toey, Snappy and my personal favorite, Off-Liney. Later in the round, the rest of the crew came to the party: Fatty, Skully, Hooky and Heely (Toey's cousin). It was like a twisted golf version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Then to top it off, Jimbo let slip that he named his tufted puffin headcover, Bernie. Apparently, Bernie offers Jimbo words of encouragement throughout the round (he sounds a bit like Mr. Bill. You can get a ton of comedic mileage out of doing your Bernie voice. Give it a try. 'You can do it Jimbo. Rip one down the middle.') The sad thing is, Jimbo told me that it took him 4 hours of surfing on the Internet one Saturday night to settle on the name, and even now I'm not entirely sure if he was being facetious or not. I don't know if he's in serious need of medical help or if he just needs to get himself a girlfriend (although the last two paragraphs effectively kills any chance he had with Shayna.)

Jimbo managed to exorcise his demons during the second round at Greywalls, posting a solid back nine for a 80, the lowest score for anybody so far on the trip (a fact that is even more depressing now that I've typed it. We used to be pretty good at this game, honest. Now we're a bunch of hacks that have to let other groups play through.) Could this be the round that turns Jimbo around for the rest of the trip? Or will Off-Liney make another guest appearance? As anybody with golf's mental illness knows, the Seven Dwarves never really go away. They're always right there lurking just under the surface.


Meet Bernie the Tufted Puffin Headcover


Is it so wrong?


The 3rd Hole at Greywalls


4th Green


Our hero


Path leading up to the 6th tee


6th Hole


Jimbo and Jefe on the 6th


I'm King of the World!


Fifth Tee


Jefe Putting on the 5th green


7th Hole


9th Hole


18th Hole

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