Memories of Our First Courses Still the Best
I have just returned from a walk down memory lane, or at least a few of its fairways. In a week off, I revisited some of the golf courses that attempted to teach me the game. Such a homecoming is in many cases deflating. Remember visiting your elementary school, incredulous that the desks were so small, and that you could have ever fit in one? So many childhood experiences don’t hold up, but golf memories are different, and so are the acres on which they were played – like Neskowin.
These are the places that hosted some of the best family times ever. To the 8-year old me, the course at Neskowin Beach was my Augusta, modest as it is in reality. Aunts, uncles, family friends, parents, siblings and others still patrol these fairways, and very often, these bunkers and creeks. Here, my father was on the brink of shooting par for nine, for the first time ever. He’d never come within ten strokes, but there he was, one long iron away on the final hole. Then, the course marshal interrupted to take him away. My sister had been kicked in the head by a horse, and he couldn’t have cared less about those last few shots.
Neskowin was the only time I ever sank a fairway shot by hitting two trees, billiards style. My uncle turned to me and observed, “Scorecard doesn’t tell you how it has to look.” It’s the only course on which I was ever attacked by a billy goat while trying to play. My Aunt Helen, the Mame of golf fashion, so outrageous that a Scot would think his screen had gone on the blink, taught me to putt there. Her secret weapon was the old blade Calamity Jane. We inherited it, and it still works.
My family came so close to buying that course decades ago. I still kick myself for not fighting harder to make it so. But no, some out of town businessman with no knowledge of golf or courses took it over and let it fall to ruin. Actually, it was already that. He let it fall one level lower. When Neskowin Creek overflowed, and the creek walls he had constructed no longer held, he let it go. Now, my beloved little Augusta is under water most months of the year. Only the 7th tee on the mountain top is left. Actually it’s a mound of about 100 feet, but it has lost no grandeur in the intervening years.
What my wife and I discovered, since it is March and the rains are frequent, is that Neskowin now serves as an off-season wildlife sanctuary for egrets, geese, every breed of duck, and other animals seen in the Oregon woods. That was comforting. Even more comforting is that the community has purchased the course, including a number of seniors who have similar memories of playing there as a child. They still get misty-eyed over it. I don’t know how they will make what is now called the Neskowin Marsh Golf Course rise from the waters, but they’ll find a way, and if I have to sling sandbags, so be it.
I visited the other courses, too – Devils Lake, where tee to green is 45 degrees, and you can only play it if one leg is shorter than the other. Other coast courses in the area resemble miniature Pebble Beaches, only exaggerated on the seaside holes. But humble, little old Neskowin. The memories are indestructible, the place where I drove my first (of few) par 4 greens, took a lesson from Helen Dettweiler of the LPGA pioneers, and followed a one-armed golfer a hole ahead, shooting par.
I recommend a sentimental journey to your old haunts at some point, sooner than later. Have one at the clubhouse, remember your best experiences, both golfing and personal, and say “Thanks for the memories” before heading home.