Beating the Snow, Plus Exclusive Footage of a Rare 86-stroke Penalty

forecastscreenshot

The forecast for Sunday was terrible, but the one for Saturday was pretty good—“snow and ice, then rain; fog”—so we shifted our Sunday game to Saturday. There were several guys standing around outside the golf shop at Candlewood Valley when we arrived: never a good sign:

P1150276

The problem was that the temperature was only a few degrees below freezing, and the superintendent was worried that the greens might not be frozen solid enough for him to ignore the frost. He went out to inspect the course, and we went out for breakfast, at a diner down the road. Then we came back and hung out in the golf shop, to await the superintendent’s verdict:P1150279-001

We also chatted up some of the other guys who were waiting. This guy, whose name is Greg, showed me a gadget called a PutterDart, which he sells and may have invented. It has lots of uses. There’s no PutterDart webpage, and Greg doesn’t seem to be on Facebook, but if you’re interested in learning more you can get in touch with him at PutterDart@aol.com.

P1150287

We got the all-clear, finally, at 10:00. Ed Slattery, the head pro, said we could play as a fivesome. He also let us start on the tenth hole, so we had plenty of empty golf course ahead of us.

P1150306

Addison was wearing shorts, so, in accordance with our winter rules, he got to be a 2 instead of a 0. But his socks were so tall that they functioned almost like pants, and to keep them from sliding down to his ankles he was holding them up with the rubber bands from two bunches of asparagus—which provided exactly the right amount of tension, he said. At some point, I guess, the Committee will have to rule on maximum sock height, as well as on artificial support.

P1150329

The Housatonic River, which runs through the course, was flowing, but the puddles and ponds were all frozen:

P1150320

On our ninth hole, Other Gene incurred a rare 86-stroke penalty, for repeatedly grounding his club after hitting his tee shot into a hazard:

We kept a weather eye on the weather with Raindar, my favorite Android precipitation monitor:

P1150339

And, luckily, despite our one-hour frost delay, the snow didn’t reach us until we were making our way up the fairway on our seventeenth hole:P1150387

Even on our eighteenth, putting was still possible:

P1150405

P1150414

P1150415

A final swig of Jagermeister, the official cold-weather intoxicant of the Sunday Morning Group, in the parking lot:

P1150439Then lunch at the Cookhouse —where, once again, we ran into the PutterDart guy. He was hard to recognize without that hat:

P1150457

P1150452

Golf on the Winter Solstice

This isn't the Sunday Morning Group, but it's close. It's a bunch of self-styled Druids celebrating the 2012 Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, an archaeological site not far from the Salisbury & South Wilts Golf Club, which was founded in 1888, a year before my club at home. This photo is from the National Geographic website.

This isn’t the Sunday Morning Group, but it’s close. It’s a group of modern-day Druids celebrating the 2012 Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, an English archaeological site not far from the Salisbury & South Wilts Golf Club, which was founded in 1888, a year before my home club. (This photo is from the website of National Geographic.)

The world didn’t end on December 21, 2012, although we had so much rain during the night that I occasionally worried we were done for. The storm continued through most of the morning, and, as a consequence, just three of us showed up at 10:00 for the Sunday Morning Group’s second annual Winter Solstice Scramble and Holiday Party, With Gift Exchange. Gary, our superintendent, built a fire in the clubhouse fireplace, and he, Hacker (real name), and I sat in front of it and used our cell phones to send sarcastic emails to everyone else.

Gary and Hacker: where's everyone else?

Gary and Hacker: where are Doug and Mrs. Doug, among other people?

The rain slackened after about an hour, and we could tell from Raindar that it was going to end soon. By 11:30, we had seven participants, including Mrs. Hacker, who had been delayed by a fallen tree.

P1040901

We ordered four pizzas from Upper Crust Cucina, the official caterers not only of the Sunday Morning Group but also of the Men’s Member-Guest. Then we played a five-hole warm-up round with one club each while we waited for the pizzas to be delivered. (Upper Crust doesn’t deliver to anyone but us, so don’t bother asking.)

P1040903

During the one-club, we saw six deer on the ninth fairway (photo below). When the pizzas arrived, we paid for them out of the Sunday Morning Group’s Slush Fund, which Hacker keeps in an envelope.

P1040922

The pizza was terrific, as it always is, and during the gift exchange I received, from Hacker, a coffee cup that looks like a softball-size golf ball. He hadn’t bought it—he had just found it on a shelf—but I still like it. You can see part of it in the bottom right hand corner of the photo below, between my Thermos brand coffee travel mug and the communal bottle of Jägermeister, the official cold-weather intoxicant of the Sunday Morning Group. I poured my Diet Pepsi into it, as a gesture of gratitude and respect.

P1040928After lunch, four of us played eighteen holes with all our clubs, and I lost twelve dollars, on account of having forgotten how to play golf, apparently. We got pretty close to a great blue heron, which hangs out near the stream that runs across the lowest part of our course, between the out-of-bounds woods on the right side of the fifth hole and the pond on the fourth. You can see it taking off in the photo below. It’s the gray blur above the bridge:

P1040935

Here’s one of the places where the heron had been fishing. Ordinarily, this stream is about a foot wide.

P1040917

We discussed holding a contest to name the heron. One possibility: “Uncle Frank,” after our dearly departed old friend Uncle Frank. It’s remotely conceivable that the heron actually is Uncle Frank, in bird form, although it doesn’t smoke or tell funny stories, and it doesn’t appear to be married to a retired soap-opera star.

We didn’t have as big a turnout for the 2012 Winter Solstice as we did for either the 2011 Winter Solstice (see photo immediately below) or the 2012 Summer Solstice (see photo below that). But seven is still pretty good for a day when nobody in their right mind played golf.

Winter Solstice tournament field December, 2011.

Winter Solstice tournament field December, 2011.

Summer Solstice 2012.

Summer Solstice all-day golf event, 101 holes, June, 2012.

Why Golfers Should Watch the Radar, Not the Forecast

Smallest Sunday Morning Group on record, Sunday, December 16, 2012.

Smallest Sunday Morning Group on record, Sunday, December 16, 2012.

We had a good group and decent weather this past Saturday, but the forecast for Sunday was horrible—rain, snow, “ice pellets”—so Hacker (real name) decided the prudent thing would be to cancel the regular meeting of the Sunday Morning Group (because of “upcoming weather”) and concentrate on planning our second annual S.M.G. Christmas party and Global Warming Invitational.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, however, there was no precipitation of any kind, either in my yard or on my Wundermap (the most important piece of golf equipment after the 34-degree hybrid). Just to be sure, I checked Raindar, on my smartphone. Yup: nothing. I then sent an emergency email, to which I received just one response, from Mike A. (Hacker had recklessly committed to taking his grandchildren to Cabela’s.) Mike and I met at the course at 10:00.

There was a tiny bit of icy precipitation of some kind, which accumulated in trace amounts on the wheels of my pushcart:

Slight icy build-up, after eighteen holes.

Slight icy build-up, after eighteen holes.

But the weather was actually decent, and there was no one else on the course, and we finished in a little over two hours. We played our regular Sunday game (net best ball, stroke play, plus skins), but with one-man teams (of which we had two). I was a stroke ahead after nine holes, but Mike annihilated me on the back and finished with a total of 8 over par—the best score ever recorded by a one-man team. We split the skins (with five each) and tied the Money Hole (No. 2, because there were two of us), so he ended up winning five dollars. Here’s our scorecard, which I kept in Sharpie on a torn-apart Titleist box:

Scorecard 12-16-12

The moral of this story is: make no irrevocable golf decision based on a forecast alone.,