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Archive for April, 2010

Golf is for the birds!

Some mornings my wife awakens me to the songs of mockingbirds at our home in Florida. I don’t wear my hearing aids to bed so I am oblivious to the commotion outside. She’ll nudge me and gesture to my ears until I get the message. Once my hearing aids are in place we both enjoy the vast repertoire of the mockingbirds.

After breakfast I find comfort in the sun on a cushioned bench in our garden and begin my conversation with the cardinals high up above in the palm trees. A series of two syllable whistles invariably results in a likewise response. The exchange may go on for several minutes, only to be interrupted by a pair of sandhill cranes majestically striding across the lawn, shrieking loudly as they profess eternal love while conveniently aerating the grass.

All this beautiful singing is often rudely interrupted by a bevy of crows descending to the upper branches of the live oak trees, making more noise than the ladies on Tuesdays at the golf course. And it reminds me that it is time to head to the course and play in the men’s league.

This day I am drawn to play with a picky little retired lawyer from Detroit. He takes forever to tee up the ball, looking for a perfect spot and adjusting the ball numerous times. On the green he carefully removes the pin and deposits it on the apron. With short, dapper steps he paces his putt.

After several holes I stop the cart in the middle of the fairway and point to the top of a tree. “What now?” he asks.

“Listen to the birds!” I reply.

And then an outburst: “I am here to play golf, not to listen to some friggin’ birds.”

So we proceeded to the next hole, stopping along the way at the next washroom… since elderly men never pass a washroom, even if they have just been.

My picky partner keeps careful score, and takes the card and pencil with him into the toilet as if he does not trust me with important documents. I wonder if he pees on the pencil. It takes all kinds to keep the golf economy strong.

My picky partner keeps careful score, and takes the card and pencil with him into the toilet as if he does not trust me with important documents. I wonder if he pees on the pencil. It takes all kinds to keep the golf economy strong…

A number of years ago I played in Friesland, a province of The Netherlands and the place of my birth a long time ago. It was the month of April when nature is at its best. Newborn lambs were bleating for their mothers in a nearby pasture. Plovers were doing summersaults in the clear sky above and singing high notes. As we proceeded down the fairways, a black Friesian stallion in a nearby pasture galloped away, stopped suddenly, raised its head and whinnied, then rolled over on its back and kicked its legs wildly. A little later, bells from a church spire chimed and announced the hour. Ducks squawked in the water hazards while coots wandered aimlessly in the rough, narrowly missing our flying missiles. Such was the poetry of the landscape, not changed much since my boyhood.

On another occasion while visiting Hawaii we discovered the “chicken course”, aka the Kukuiolono Park and Golf Course on the Island of Kauai. (Say it loudly and you will sound like a rooster.) Apparently many years ago a hurricane destroyed a chicken coop but the chickens survived. In the absence of natural predators they multiplied  rapidly. Walter McBryde, a sugar magnate who owned the park and 9-hole golf course, bequeathed it upon his death to the community with the proviso that the fees remained low.  Golfers can thank him as they pass his grave near the 8th tee, which is in the middle of a lovely Japanese garden also popular for wedding ceremonies.

To this day you can play the Kukuiolono Golf Course for under $10 if you don’t mind putting up with all the chickens. They are everywhere, on tees, greens and fairways. We putted through them on the greens and almost hit a rooster on a ladies’ tee. But if you have dealt with Canada Geese, chickens are a joy. We even bought a package of feed for 50 cents from the dragon lady in the pro shop and fed the chickens near the putting green. They all came running.

So now you know why golf is for the birds!