Golf is back. Is that a good thing?

August 2020

Oh happy day! We can golf again, Coloradans!

Because for a while, see, while the plague was at its most determined, they’d closed down the courses. Every God-forsaken one. Including that expanse of fescue and torment known as Kennedy, where on the Creekside Hole No. 3 you inevitably come into contact with a familiar tower of doom encasing a vacant soul. A tree. But not just any tree. A tree with ill intent and sour disposition and many, many branches. If Jay Cutler was 90 feet tall and had roots and woke up on a Monday surlier than usual, this is what he’d look like. That tree. It survived the coronavirus, apparently, and is still here.

If you golf in Denver, you know this tree: It lurks in the foreground, maybe 100 yards from the back tees and it is ON THE RIGHT. Not that I slice. Who said I slice? I don’t slice, you slice.

Anyway, we’re golfing again, so you get to do battle with this monstrosity and a hundred other deviously placed obstacles punctuating our Front Range golf courses, all of them devoid of empathy and not particularly caring that you’re still enduring this horrible health crisis because a wiser person would not have come back at all but now that you have: Hehe, deal with it.

Golf in Colorado now is weird, but we press on. The friendly interior bar at Wellshire is unavailable. Instead, you step outside to the patio to order a beverage, which is served politely by a kind person wearing a mask. At Foothills in Lakewood, the clubhouse is roped off, doors shut. But a makeshift card table bedecked with scorecards and one of those tablet credit card readers does the trick well enough. An amiable gent offers the rules of play, has you swipe the card, and off you go.

When you do tee off, you notice something else: golfers. Other misguided individuals who only weeks before were shielded from all of this. On the tee box and deeper onto the course, the mask thing becomes optional; the thinking being that so long as you maintain your distance you’re highly unlikely to sprout contaminated droplets in the range of your partner. Which seems plausible given that everybody else in your foursome seems to fairly consistently play the ball somewhere within the prescribed strip of fairway whilst you tend to roam a bit, veering a good 50 yards away from the intended target area, so it’s not like you’re ever really within shouting distance anyway.

Still, what exactly is the point here? Quarantined at home, we were protected from this nonsense. It’s true there were moments when we considered embroidering the cat out of sheer restlessness, but those temptations passed. What we were being guarded from, though we scarcely realized it, was not just “sustained community transmission” but that gut-wrenching sorrow of strolling up to a bunker to notice your white ball perched centimeters from the jutting lip of the thing, making impossible any idea of escape.

Now we’re back, we Colorado golfers, unlike (at this writing) professional baseball players or indoor pickup basketball jocks or the Colorado Avalanche or just about anybody else who makes sports a regular part of their lives. Golf, benevolently or not, has returned.

And so here at Kennedy, on a first outing since the reopening, we meet our maker once again. I step up and jab the tee into the ground with an advancing inner anguish that means the shot is already doomed, because: golf. Yet there is no alternative path. They make you play No. 3 in order to play No. 4, and so on.

So: Shoulders tensed, legs locked like concrete pillars, a thousand unspoken swing thoughts ricocheting, I go through the progression. Low and slow on the coil. Turn the shoulder. Lock the head as steadily as I would if Jennifer Lopez were cradling me close while cooing my middle name (my thoughts tend to wander during the backswing). Turn the hips and bring the club head downward.

And then: bliss. The ball explodes from the tee, levitating into an orbit that exhibits the most delicious hint of a draw, the ideal shape for navigating the most persnickety of pathways. It is, finally, joyously, impossibly, the shot of a lifetime, the rarefied moment of glory, the perfect exhibit of … actually, it’s none of this. It is a lazy meandering pooch of a drive that drifts, attracted by magnetic force and general unfairness toward the beast itself. Even before I even hear it, I know it’s coming: the knock of ball against branch, the belittling “thwock” that signals misery. And tells us we’re golfing in Colorado again.

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