As the days grow longer, one of my favorite times to play golf alone begins to shape up, late Sunday afternoons, early evenings actually, with the shadows growing longer, the course empty and the pace of play quick.
Surrounded by the sea, Bass Rocks is a short narrow course, much like the original courses in Scotland in that if the wind is up, it plays hard, if the wind lies down, not so much. Good greens, wonderful views and the ocean visible on every hole. Showing up late on Sunday, I grab my clubs quickly and head to the first tee, a blind shot up and over the hill - the sun is already heading down, so there is always this amazing impatience to hit the first shot and get over the hill, away from the clubhouse, family, life, and alone on the course.
From the top of the hill, the Atlantic covers the distance, and the wind is usually off the sea. By the time I've hit my second shot, the tension is fading, and the world recedes.
Golf alone is a peculiarly interesting and frustrating game. It's a time when one is capable of hitting great shots, or if distracted by thoughts, truly terrible ones. The silence and the space is what strikes you at first, often I am the only one out there, though you will sometimes see one of the better players in the club practicing, or a father out with a son, or a couple playing a few holes together before the week.
The hitting of the shots of course takes just seconds, it's the space between the shots walking that is the reason I play late on Sunday's by myself. Each hole has a story to tell me. Or takes me to a place far away in time or space.
I remember playing golf with my father once, in Ann Arbor, in the early 1980s before he died young. He had been a great player before cataracts took away his depth perception but as I was learning the game, he played with me, once. I remember him breaking 80. And we never played again.
Holes on the course have memories. A green from a tournament when a friend and I scrambled to make double bogey. A hole I lost on my own when I could have won the whole thing. A bad bounce here. A lucky landing there. A memory of laughter from playing with a group of friends. A tournament in the rain.
I remember holing out a pitching wedge for an eagle playing one day with a friend of mine, and I make a note to call him, it's been a long time since the phone rang and his voice was on the other line. He calls me 'laddy' after our Scotland trip together a decade ago.
I played here with my best friend after his brother had killed his father.
As it gets darker, the rabbits come out and they always remind me of my children, who both like the game but really, especially when they were younger, love the rabbits. Sometimes the rabbits stay still and let me pass.
A fence has the name of member who was well-loved and died young.
Sometimes, it seems like golf at the end of the day is a reminder, a good time to reflect on how fast it all goes. How children grow. How love comes and leaves. How friends age and move on. How people leave us.
The sun sets quickly once below the trees.
Often I end up on a Par 3 in the gloom. I hit the last shot and rarely see it land.
It's a hole I saw someone make a hole in one on in a tournament.
Sometimes, I find that last shot, usually a four iron into the almost dark. Sometimes I don't. It never matters either way, it's the hitting that counts - you hear the shot better when you can't be bothered to look up and try and see it.
In the faded light, it's back to the clubhouse, and back into street shoes and into the car.
By now it's dark, pitch black, and I head home, usually quite quiet, usually thinking of something the course reminded me of, or someone, or someplace, or sometime.
A golf course alone, at the end of a warm summer day, it's all there, stretched out in 6,500 yards of manicured fairways and greens. It's all there, waiting for me and that's why I play.
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