Solstice Marathon: 101 Holes in 15 Hours, All Walking

sixth fairway

To celebrate the official arrival of summer, my friends and I played golf on Monday from can to can’t—from when you can see until you can’t. Seven of us teed off at 5:00 a.m., when it was just light enough to follow a ball most of the way to the dogleg in the first fairway, and about thirty minutes later we were joined by Peter A., who had just discovered that he didn’t know how to set his alarm clock. He played by himself until he had caught up. Here’s Hacker (real name) getting ready to hit the day’s opening drive:

hacker first hole

We had to play around the sprinklers for a while:


Gary, our superintendent, stopped by to see how things were going, and we tried to talk him into joining us:

gary sixth

After the first eighteen holes, we drove to the coffee shop on the village green for breakfast. After the next twenty-seven, we made ourselves cheeseburgers and hot dogs on the grill in the parking lot next to the clubhouse. We also stopped occasionally to change socks, shoes, and shirts. I flipped my socks every time we passed the clubhouse, so that they would dry evenly:

drying socks

The day was hot, humid, and mostly windless. Several guys came and went. Tim played the first eighteen, then went home and worked, then came back and played the last eleven. (He said that the unusual parts of a solstice marathon are the beginning and the end, and that he already knew what it’s like to play in the middle of the day.) Here’s Tim, during the final nine, carrying a golf bag with the logo of the Sunday Morning Group’s unofficial marathon golf-shoe provider:

tim bag

We played on foot, and we played fast—my threesome averaged an hour and ten minutes per nine all day long—but I never felt that we were hurrying. The key is that we didn’t fool around: no practice swings, very little ball-marking, no obsessive putt-reading, no brooding about yardages on holes we play all the time, no standing around waiting for someone else to hit. When you play that way, you don’t have time to get in your own way, mentally. And, as is usually the case, everyone played extremely well. My second round was my best of the year so far (72). Addison was 8-under, gross, for the day. Here’s one of Addison’s tee shots on No. 9, a short par 4:

addison eagle

We finished at 8 p.m. Addison, David W., and I managed 101 holes, all walking. (That was roughly sixty-six thousand steps, two hundred and seventy flights of stairs, and thirty-five miles, according to my Fitbit.) Hacker achieved his goal of “walking and carrying my age,” which is about to be seventy. He switched to a cart after seventy-two holes, played nine more riding, and followed us to the end in the staff cart, with Mike A. driving:

staff cart

The competition was a ringer tournament, in which a player counted only his best net score on each of the eighteen holes—a format that gave an appropriate advantage to those who played the most holes. David W. was first, at -17; I was second, at -16; and Addison was third, at -15. Here’s my scorecard for the day (the pink spots are Powerade):

Owen solstice

While we were eating lunch, we got to watch one of the later stages of another golf marathon, featuring our club’s oldest member. His wife had brought him over, and had had a great deal of difficulty getting him from their car to the practice green. She had brought his putter and a Ziploc bag containing about a dozen old balls, which she placed on the green near his feet. Putting the dozen balls took him a long time. When he was finished, I helped her get him back to their car. Then they drove home.

Postscript: Patrick Kroos, a German golfer and blogger whose main current project is persuading non-Swedes to travel to Sweden to play golf, wrote me to tell me about a German tournament called the HundertLochPokal, or HuLoPo, which means “Hundred-Hole Cup.” He wrote:  “One of my golf friends made a nice video of the 2013 edition. Even if you do not understand German, you can see the agony.” You can watch the video here.

Summer Begins: Longest-Day Marathon and Other Golf News


The longest day of 2013 fell on a Friday—not a good day of the week to try to commandeer a golf course. The day before, my club had a senior outing—also not good. And the day before that was Ladies’ Day—ditto. So my friends and I conducted our second annual Summer Solstice Marathon three days early, on Tuesday, June 18. The idea was to play “from can to can’t”—from when you can see until you can’t. I set my alarm for 3:30, and six of us teed off a little before 5:00, when the first hole looked like this:


It was still pretty dark when we got to the fifth tee:

P1070446On the sixth green, we ran into Gary, who had just cut a new hole for us, in a diabolical location:


After eighteen holes, we went to the little cafe on our town’s green for breakfast burritos, apple fritters, and coffee, just like we did last year. I forgot to take my camera, so the picture below is from last year. The participants were pretty much the same, though, except that Bob G. didn’t show up until after lunch, David W. had broken a rib, Addison was playing in the state amateur, and we didn’t run into Mike A.’s mother. I think Mike was wearing the same shirt, though—for continuity.

That's Mike A. on the right and Mike A's mother on the left. She just happened to be there.

That’s Mike A. on the right and Mike A’s mother on the left. She doesn’t follow him around. She just happened to be there.

When we got back to the course, I hit what felt like a pretty good fairway wood, but the ball tailed off, and instead of going into the hole it went into Steve’s mower cart. Steve said I could play it from the cart, but I elected to take relief.


After forty-five holes, we stopped for lunch—hot dogs and freezer-burned hamburgers from the kitchen fridge—and then went back out.

Young Nick, Kevin, Bob G.

Young Nick, Kevin, Bob G., post-lunch.

The weather forecast the night before had been decent, but when we got to our fiftieth hole we thought we heard thunder, and when we got to our fifty-second hole we were sure we did. The lightning horn in the golf shop blew, and we all humped back to the clubhouse. The rain and hail started a few minutes later, and pretty soon the first fairway and practice green looked like water hazards:


I had left some socks and a pair of golf shoes on the roof of my car. Should I risk my life by running across the parking lot to get them? I decided I should. Then we all hung around on the clubhouse porch for half an hour or so, watching the gutters overflow:



The rain came down so hard that Mike U. couldn’t get from the golf shop to the clubhouse. Here he is, stranded in the doorway:


We ended up playing just half as many holes as we played last year. That was disappointing, but a few days later twenty-six guys showed up for Sunday Morning Group—very possibly a record. We choose teams by drawing numbered poker chips from a hat, and because we have only twenty-four chips we thought for a while that we might have to send two guys home. But then Hacker (real name) came up with a workaround. Here’s the group:

Sunday Morning Group, June 25, 2013.

Sunday Morning Group, June 25, 2013.

If you count the heads in the photo above, you’ll notice that there are twenty-seven, not twenty-six. The extra guy is Harry, who used to play with us all the time but now lives in another state, on account of his wife. He had played with Hacker the day before, but he broke his elbow a couple of years ago and can’t really swing anymore. On Sunday, he dropped by just to say so long before heading home. You can see the scar on his arm where they tried to put his elbow back together:

P1070494He has finally stopped smoking, though. So give him credit for that.

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.


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.)


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.


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:


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


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.