When I was a kid (many, many years ago), I couldn’t wait to get up on a summer morning and head to the golf course. We were fortunate our junior program had ample depth so there were always playing partners about. The professional staff encouraged us to play and ran interference when the course got busy. It wasn’t uncommon to play 36 holes a day. Many friendships and memories were formed during those days gone by.
I miss so many aspects from that wonderful time. If a sport could “lock you in” this one did. My friends and I dressed the part, displayed many of the mannerisms we watched on televised events and configured our set make up to mirror what the pros were carrying on tour. Headcovers, bags, shoes, putters, you name it, me or one of my comrades probably had it.
The other day I played Erin Hills Golf Club, the site of the 2017 US Open. A magnificent layout, the routing is spread over several hundred acres. It is said the walk covers nine miles. There are no carts so carry your own or hire a looper. Either way the experience is among the best in golf.
I opted to carry my clubs and save the caddy fee for lunch after our round. It is the sixth time I’ve toured “the Hills” and each round brings every aspect of golf to the day’s challenge. Yet even as special as it is, there are a few sounds missing from this modern day walk.
First there is the footwear. No more metal spikes and heavy leather shoes. I have five pairs of those relics in my basement and every once in awhile I’ll break them out with their retrofitted softspikes. But I miss the sound – the unmistakable rhythmic clicking of players walking across pavement, bridges, cart paths, or locker room floors. Yes, the sound fails to exist “through the green” but that distinctive sound was as much a part of the game as Wilson Staff DynaPowers and Spalding Dots. You couldn’t help but listen and contribute to the march.
Another sound I don’t hear as much is the clanking of irons as a player carries their bag on their shoulder. As a junior carrying a larger bag than today, it was easy to conjure a walking rhythm with my irons clanking in unison with my strides. It served as my game’s metronome. When I was playing well I would absorb myself in the sound and block out all of the destructive thoughts that plague most golfers. In a way it kept me calm. Eighteen holes of the conspicuous “clank”. In the natural surroundings the clank served as music to my ears.
Lastly there is another click I miss. I doubt anything like it will ever by heard again. It is the sound of a wound balata golf ball meeting a persimmon wooden club. Not only has the sound disappeared, the feel that accompanies it is a thing of the past. Today the sounds emanating from hitting a ball are louder and metallic. The sound of a good shot has changed. It was identifiable back in the day but not so much now.
Walking the course this past week reignited those memories of the sounds from a different time. The game was the same but another generation has entered the playing field with technological advancements and training resulting in more distance, generic shots and an increase in injuries.
I miss my past. While it was the only one I had, I feel lucky to have played through the last days of the “persimmon era”. The golf ball maneuvered more easily. Courses weren’t stretched to ridiculous lengths demanding a smash mentality. It was a simpler game with simpler tools on courses that invited players rather dismissing them. However, it’s still about getting the ball in the hole, enjoying the outdoors and spending time with friends. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover some news sounds to accompany me around the course. I hope so but I’ll always remember the clicks and clanks I heard every time I was lucky enough to tee it up as a kid.