Friday, October 1, 2010

Dieter Kurtenbach's place

My mind works non-stop. Constantly working on numerous tracks, it isn't an issue of a short attention span, rather one of challenge and interest.

As I have developed as an adult, the problem has developed as well. It reached a crescendo in the spring of 2009. Amongst five writing jobs, extra curricular activities, a serious girlfriend and school, it crossed my head fleetingly, like most of my other ideas — you should be better at golf.

And so the addiction started. I poured cash and time into golf, because, unlike anything before, it was a challenge that required my full attention at all times. Disrespect the game, and you'll feel the wrath.

It was said that golf is a game that is played on a six inch course, the course between your ears. That's entirely factual.

I moved to an apartment that overlooks the ninth hole of a golf course this summer. The ninth hole is my place.

It seems ironic, but there is a zen-like quality to hole No.9. Despite being, literally, right next to an interstate highway, the noise of the cars and trucks disappears as you tee up the ball.

The hole is 511 yards, a par-5. The challenge of the hole isn't it's length, it's the challenge of how you play the hole.

A dogleg right, towering trees blind you from the fairway. The trees are daunting, but they are taunt you to hit over them, giving you an easy second shot to the green and a eagle opportunity. The alternative is to play conservatively, and play an easy shot straight ahead, breaking up the hole and giving you an easy two shot play to the green.

Standing on the tee box, a stream runs to your left. Beavers have built a dam 20 feet away from the tee box and sometimes they run right past you in to grab twigs and branches of trees broken from errant tee shots hooked into the thick forest that runs along the stream.

When it's a perfect day, I'll hit two balls on No.9, I'll play the aggressive shot first — a bellwether of my day. If I hit my drive just right, the ball will go straight up in the air, slice a bit to the right and finally descend from the clouds 125 yards away from the green. I've only hit the shot perfectly three times. Every time I have failed, the simple lifestyle of the beaver feels more and more attractive. But when I hit the ball just right, I feel like I can conquer the world. Hell, I conquered a golf ball and a challenging hole, how hard can everything else be?

I have downplayed the conservative shot. It is, in-fact treacherous in it's own way. You might be staring at a field of unabated green in front of you, but that green is undulated by hills and flanked by equally hilly sand.

The rough grass does it's name proud. In the summer, when temperatures soar to 100 degrees, the rough remains thick and green while the earth beneath it dies and dries up as hard as a frying pan. When it rains, the grass remains the same vivid green, as the frying pan earth changes it's consistency to that of a runny egg. The deception is sometimes enough to take five strokes away from you, making the conservative route a pain and the aggressive route, if unsuccessful, a nightmare.

When you approach your shot, you see the green for the first time. The very same creek that runs past the tee box loops back around and creates a moat suited for a king green. The fairway narrows, and so does your focus. As you stare at the green from a distance, the fact that it is elevated stands out. The goal is to get yourself, materialized in a small ball, to the green, which is guarded, but ironically accessible.

Gut check time. Your conservative tee shot gives you 225 yards to the green. Hit the ball straight and nothing can stop you from reaching the green easily. Do you bust out the long iron and go for the green, or take an easy shot, setting up a routine play. Every day we face this question, go for the goal quickly or be patient and calculated. Only on the golf course is the decision made so easily and quickly.

But some days, you don't have the luxury of taking the big risk or going for the easy shot. Some days your conservative shot goes in the sand, and most days trying to go over the trees results in you being with the trees — a hundred pinball bumpers hoping to rename your ball Rick O'Shea. The smart decision would be to putt the ball out of the narrow woods and to the fairway. But, like in life, the aggressive play that fails usually illicit more aggressive play. Only experience can tell you to take the smart play. Experience and a welt from a deflected golfball.

If you think the rough is bad, you don't know the sand. With any normal set of sand traps, you can adjust yourself and make a respectable shot. Not here. No, here you are standing nearly a foot above your ball, making anything other than a 10-foot "get out of here shot" nearly impossible. The sand trap forces you to admit defeat and play for another hole.

Eventually, the ball ends up on the green. Some routes take longer than others. Some routes are more frustrating than others. Each journey unique in its challenges, even if the end result is the same.

The aggressive play, sometimes rewarded with jubilation and a conquering mentality, but more often distain and defeat, or the conservative play, which gets the result without the adventure.

I play both on the good days. It's too nice not to. But when I have one hole to play and one ball left in the bag, I go for the aggressive play. I want the story, the adventure of grand success or excellent defeat. It's a telling story of my life that I needed my place told me.

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