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Mar 12

Meeting Mother Nature on the Golf Course

Mother Nature Sinks One

Intellectually at least, we understand that playing a round of golf entails a walk in the woods. That’s why so many of us do it, in fact. We merge a time of serenity with a time of obsession with the game. A walk in the woods is, under most circumstances, a pleasant pastime, but as adults, we are aware of the dangers as well.

As a kid, I was not a horror movie person. There was one, the title of which I cannot remember, that involved a Martian invasion, and humans were unceremoniously sucked into the ground. At the time, it offended every sensibility with which I was familiar. By the time I watched Peter O’Toole lose a traveling companion to quicksand in Lawrence of Arabia, my condition had not improved – to me, it was beyond chilling.

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Fortunately, I was not the forty-three year old mortgage broker who played the course in Waterloo, Illinois recently. Fortunate, because he handled it far better than I would have. In fact, I would have had my obligatory coronary and missed the whole thing.

In other articles, I have discussed courses in less domesticated parts of the world, where lions wait in the rough and cheetahs sleep on the greens. That’s serious stuff, but that’s animal kingdom danger. You can be warned, and have the opportunity to listen. However, this gentleman was preyed upon by Nature herself.

Waiting to hit from the fairway, he noticed a depression behind him, and investigated. Sadly, that included stepping on the seemingly solid patch, which gave way and caused him to fall almost twenty feet. At the bottom, his cries for help were eventually answered, and a golf buddy made him a sling with his sweater before pulling him out some twenty minutes later.

Perhaps this golfer was like me, not a horror movie person. He claims that during his fall, his thoughts returned to the recent tragedy in which a man was swallowed by the earth in his bedroom, and was never found. Apparently, the Waterloo golfer (the name might have given him pause already, had he thought about it) had stood upon a patch of subsurface limestone, which are plentiful in the region. At the end of it, a dislocated shoulder and a few bruises were the extent of it, never mind that the 6 handicapper was playing a hot round at one over,

I think we all understand that Nature is always present, and potentially powerful, but we look for her appearances in lightning, the occasional fire or flood, high winds and torrential rains. We never expect her to take the very ground from beneath our feet.

There is another natural danger we seldom think about, despite walking in the “woods.” On the Dunes Course of New Buffalo, about a hundred miles south of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 52 year old Bruce Florine was killed when one of the course’s trees fell on him.

One of my favorite uncles, and one heck of a golfer, died (nearly as we can tell) from a lightning strike. The cart came over the hill under its own power, with nobody in it. It may have been the way he wanted it. He was a W.C. Fields type off the course, but when he teed off on number one, you could swear that he was from the ballet. Lee Trevino, one of the greats of our last generation, had a penchant for lightning, and he did the best with it that anyone can do – met it with humor.

Still, it’s just a walk in the woods, and as a rule, beautifully prepared for our golfing pleasure. Might as well hit something along the way and make a good game out of it. Be sure, though, to watch the skies and know what you’re stepping on at all times.kmov_raw-sinkhole-swallows-man-on-metro-east-golf-course-197461981_s

 

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.