Frankly, it's been a brutal spring. My HHH training has been in a rut. Falling down and injuring my hip and wrist set me back about a month. My wrist was slow to fully heal, which sapped any motivation to get out and to the gym. This was later made an impossibility by a string of 16-hour work days, including weekends. Meanwhile, our house was upside-down with a kitchen remodel. Golf wasn't even on the radar.
Thankfully, light started to shine through the tunnel over the course of the last week. Like many others, I was inspired by Kevin Cahoon's commitment and training regimen. I even picked a FitBit like he did, to provide that tracking, feedback and little extra motivation. Staying at my in-laws house about a mile away from our house during this renovation project, I took any opportunity to walk or ride back to/from the houses as errands warranted. And I simply had to start getting back in golf shape if there was any chance of walking 500 holes over 2 1/2 weeks at Pinehurst, Ballyneal, Cabot Links and St. Andrews (w/ Tom Doak!) Besides, who wouldn't want to play as many holes as humanly possible at those destinations?
One key part of my training the last two years has been a late-May/early June trip to Ballyneal, specifically to get the legs going again. I 'floated the concept' of a short-notice golf trip to my wife Sue, filed under the guise of HHH Training. You might think this was a pretty pathetic attempt to squeeze in an extra golf getaway. And I might think that you are one pretty perceptive fella. In either case, yada, yada, yada...there I was on Friday getting picked up from the airport for a ride out to the Chop Hills.
[Speaking of Ballyneal, I get a lot of questions about why someone living in Chicago would be a member at a golf club 850 miles away. There are a couple of responses: a) have you been there? b) it's a great solution for a guy with a young family, condensing scarce golf days into a few quality trips per year and c) I can wake up in Chicago and be on the first tee in Colorado at 10:15 AM, plenty of time to get in 36+ holes on both the getaway and return day.]
Fellow Hundred Hole Hiker Brandon Urban did whatever spousal negotiations were necessary to join me, driving 6 1/2 hours that morning from Kansas. HHHer John Penny already had plans to be there as well, and joined us after the first nine holes Friday. My nutritional guru and former HHHer/HGHer 'Magic' Matt Schulte provided the transportation and came out for the day, pouncing on the opportunity to beat up on some young (he just turned 40, so I'm going to use that adjective while I still can), injured and doughy prey. From his perspective, forcing the loser of the match to carry his clubs up from the 18th hole wasn't just Ballyneal tradition, it was an opportunity for me to do some additional leg strengthening exercises. Thank you, Matt?
For perhaps the first time ever, Matt and I were teammates against John and Brandon in the afternoon, and we played what turned out to be a 9-hole match off the back nine. As I continually walked up the dunes to find my (and Brandon's) erratic drives, I came to realize what everybody else already knew but was afraid to say: man, I'm out of shape. 22 holes into the trip and I was completely gassed.
Worse yet, whenever I tried to swing my driver, my calves would cramp up, producing some awkward swings but surprisingly decent results (I turned it around and carried our team to the victory...and Brandon and John carried the clubs up 'The Climb' after the round!). After a big drive on 18, both my legs seized up, I hobbled around in pain and fell straight to the ground. Needless to say, my friends
Fortunately for me, I was able to get past the leg cramp issues with some electrolyte chews (leftover from last year's hike). Unfortunately for me, that wasn't the most embarrassing picture of the weekend.
My other motivation for getting out to Colorado was to scope out some land that I had routed a golf course on, mainly just for kicks but also just in case I had won the $600 million Powerball lottery. I mean, who wouldn't want to play a golf course designed by the 7th place finisher in the Golfclubatlas armchair architecture contest? After completing that entry and discovering the mystical powers of Google Earth, I started scouring the virtual land surrounding Ballyneal for potential golf holes. While there's probably enough land (if not enough water) for four courses, I honed in on a portion of land a couple miles south of the current course (and beyond the course already routed out by Bruce 'Hep-B' Hepner), in quieter dunes relative to the jagged Chop Hills of the original. I envisioned a tight, walking only design, even toying with the idea of having something work backwards and forwards, a la St. Andrews (though I wasn't smart enough to pull that off). I put together a rough routing (below), with the caveat that a site visit and some pictures would really help me visualize whether the holes worked or not.
So my plan was to wake up at the crack of dawn, borrow Brandon's car and drive over this plot of land and walk the routing and take notes and pictures along the way. My plan was not to turn onto a makeshift road, realize it was a) a bad idea and b) north of the property I wanted to look at it, try to turn around Brandon's car and get it dead stuck in the sand. But that's exactly what happened. Five minutes into my career as a golf course designer, and it was effectively over before it started.
It was a little bit like the opening scene of Breaking Bad, minus the gun and the roving meth lab in back (Yes, I was wearing pants). I searched the back of Brandon's car for a shovel, a survival kit and maybe an emergency flare gun, but had to settle on trying to dig the car out of the sand with a tire iron. The more I tried to extricate the car, the deeper it got buried in the sand. It had to be the single most ridiculous moment of futility in my 39 1/2 years of existence.
Finally, I gave up, called and woke up Garrett from the club at 5:30 am and told him I was stuck. They sent someone out to get me, then later brought a truck to pull the car out of the rut. There were about 42 lessons learned that morning. Among them: Stick to pavement. Don't quit your day job. And first and foremost, you're an idiot.
Thankfully, things looked up from there. Saturday and Sunday were good days of golf, and I slowly got my sea legs back. I felt like a golfer again. A walking golfer. A Hundred Hole Hiker. Thanks to a great weekend with friends at Ballyneal, I pulled myself out of the rut, with a five-iron instead of a tire iron. I even tried out some lefty hickories for the first time, and had a blast with them. I might have to put them in the rotation for a round or two during the Ballyneal hike.
Please consider supporting my Hundred Hole Hike for the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy in Denver and/or the Evans Scholars Foundation by clicking here. Please note that a pledge for any of the four events is a pledge for the entire multi-stage hike, so please keep my target of 500 holes in mind as you pledge. You do not need to pledge to each event individually. At the end of the event, you will receive instructions on how to fulfill the pledge with one or both causes, allowing you to choose how you'd wish to split your pledge. Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. -- Jim