The last 15 months have been pretty exciting for this lover of all things golf and travel. In that time, I've checked off my list some of the most renowned golf courses and resorts in the game - from PGA Tour stops, to major championship venues, to perhaps the most beautiful and historic course on the planet. And while some of these visits lead to "A Good Walk Spoiled," the stroll down these famous fairways has also taught me quite a bit about the game of golf, the courses we enshrine, and even life in general.
|Photobombed by a sheep on Whistling Straits.|
Great Golf Courses Are Best Played With Friends
This whirlwind tour of golf began last summer, in something I dubbed "Deej's Florida Swing." The five week tour of some of Florida's best golf resorts took me to three different PGA Tour host courses - Bay Hill, Innisbrook, and PGA National. Playing these three prestigious courses should have had me halfway to golfer's nirvana, but in the end I was left feeling, well, underwhelmed. The issue wasn't the resorts or the courses - those exceeded expectations in every way. Nor was I influenced by lousy scores, because I actually played them all quite well. No, the real root of the problem was how I played them - alone.
|My lifelong golf buddies.|
What I learned during the "Florida Swing" - besides that The Bear Trap is three holes designed by The Devil - is that without the camaraderie of my golf buddies, and the trash talk with my brother, playing one of America's leading courses alone is really no more memorable than a round at the local Muni. Riding around in a golf cart, alone with your thoughts, really isn't any fun. Especially if you had a look inside my brain on the golf course.
Caddies Are An Interesting Bunch
A year ago, I had never played a proper round of golf with a caddie - I've now played five. I had always assumed that most caddies were college kids hoping to make a few bucks during their summer back home. You know, like in Caddie Shack. And while that was the case for our visit to Whistling Straits, most of the caddies I met this year were career "loopers." Something I only thought existed on the PGA Tour.
|With my caddie "Big Tony" at Pebble Beach.|
Besides finding them to be worth their weight in gold on challenging and unfamiliar courses, I quickly learned that caddies are also an interesting mix of personalities. There was the late-40's bachelor/Star Wars geek with a single digit handicap. One guy claimed to have been divorced 6 times and lived in 28 different states. Another said he called Mark Whalberg "Marky Mark" to his face during the round, and lived to tell the tale. And last, but certainly not least, one guy spent the day sharing his x-rated, St. Patrick's Day exploits from the night before, while also reading the greens perfectly and completely hungover. No doubt about it, I would love to be a fly on the wall during a caddie's convention.
These Guys Are Good
The PGA Tour's marketing slogan is pretty much dead on obvious. The scores that these guys put up each week are something that I have a hard time matching at putt-putt, much less the real thing. But when you toss in that they're doing so on the hardest golf courses on the planet, you gain a whole new appreciation for their talent. If there's one thing that playing 5 3/4 major championship courses this year has taught me - sorry PGA Tour, The Players Championship is not a major - it's that these guys "play a game with which I'm unfamiliar."
|So that's what a 530 yard par 4 looks like...|
It's Time For A New Bucket List