Just nice to get out

WE play that 5-iron course at the west end of the park. Its gentle-hill fairways have been carved out of big-tree forests planted a long time ago; and it's so hidden that twosomes -- even singles -- can get on at almost any time. You could call it a nature walk, I guess, if you played for pleasure. From the tee at No. 7, you can look out through long-needle pines to see the Pacific surf. And all along the sides of other slightly curved fairways (where the ball should be) are beautifully matured trees and thick, ground-covering shrubbery. Nobody -- nobody, that is, but the early-morning groundskeepers -- ever finds lost balls, since the sideline vegetation is so formidable. Besides the aesthetically distracting scenery, on many days in spring and summer there's the close-in moan of the Golden Gate foghorns and the rising whine of reforestation crews' chain saws. The starter said to join up with that single on No. 6.

``Take the honor,'' he smiled, practice-swinging his 5-iron with the left hand. His shoulder bag was well worn, and had three other clubs (I looked) -- putter, a seven, and a wedge. I took the honor and my shot landed in the trap. His slow, smooth swing took his ball in a determined line right to the green's edge.

``Play here much?'' I asked him.


``Haven't I seen you with that big group?''

``The Thundering Herd?'' He meant the 13 retirees who owned the course (everybody said) and played 27 holes in tandem sixsomes and sevensomes five days a week. ``I used to be part of their group. Good players, fun to be with. But so competitive -- always talking golf.''

``Talking's bad,'' I said. He sank his 25-foot putt for an eagle.

``Oh, that doesn't bother the game. I call the way I play automatic -- with time to think about other things.''

He drove the green on 7. ``It's just that I like to enjoy the surroundings,'' he went on. ``Did you know this course is about 35 years old? And the park itself -- well, I guess, over 100. Look at that cypress, bent over, topped flat, twisted branches'' -- he sank another long, accurate putt.

``Do you know about the trees in the park?'' he asked.

``Well, not really.''

``These were all sand dunes.'' He cracked a high 7-iron that almost hit the pin on No. 8. ``So first they planted cypress and pine and blue gum to see if these would take hold in the soil.''

``And they did.'' I was helping him out. But I shanked an 8-iron shot into the sprinkler shed down the hill.

``It was a wonderful idea,'' he went on, as we both probed the underbrush for my ball. ``Because when the city fathers got around to it, they found that California had 54 species of native conifers -- and 13 of these don't grow anywhere else.'' I took a wedge, unearthed two small stones, and sailed my ball to the far side of the green. Against my three putts, he was down in one.

``From here you can see a good many of those trees, you know.'' He swept his putter along the horizon. ``Not all are here on the course. But it's got some great specimens. Look at that beauty overhanging the ninth green.''

I almost said I wished it didn't. He was on again in one. I was in the middle of the fairway, but short.

``You know you should go see the California family of trees where they're identified,'' he said as we walked down the fairway in the same direction for a change. ``Ever been to the Arboretum?''

I had to say no.

``It's at the other end of the park. Must be about 20 native trees planted there along a sort of walk, all with name tags -- Monterey cypress, giant cedar, dawn redwood, Sitka spruce, western yew, Torrey pine -- I can't remember them all.'' He was down for an effortless birdie. We shook hands to leave.

``You must have a low handicap,'' I said. ``Good to play with you.''

``Oh, for me,'' he said, ``it's just nice to get out.''

With him, it really was.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Just nice to get out
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today