Lightbulb Moments – Full Swing Ahead!

It’s always an exciting time when the Lodge opens the golf course on April 1 every year. Suddenly, the parking lot is bustling with people driving golf carts, wrestling with their bags, and slathering on sunscreen for a day out on the links. The back windows of our spa overlook the golf course and during the spring, we keep those windows open to enjoy the fresh air. It is admittedly distracting while I’m working to hear someone shout “FORE” occasionally, but I love the sound of the club as it cuts through the air and strikes the ball.

This year, the golf course at The Lodge will have been open for 112 years. I found out recently that the original golf course in Cloudcroft was a 3-hole course located where Zenith Park is today. It was moved to where it is now when the owners decided to expand it from 3 holes to 9. The original Lodge burned down in 1909 and was rebuilt to its current location in 1911 so it was closer to the golf course.

As a kid, I remember my father and my grandfather going out to golf. They left the house early Sunday morning and we saw them later in the afternoon. When they went out golfing, it seemed like Dad and Grandpa were going out on some mysterious adventure where children weren’t allowed. Through the summer, Grandpa Tippy would golf every morning and come back reveling in the experience of being “away from all the distractions.” I imagine Grandma Tippy was equally satisfied, having the day away from the distraction of Grandpa. Because of work, Dad didn’t get to go out to golf as much as my grandfather, but anytime there was a company tournament, my father signed up. In our typical nuclear family fashion, we celebrated with him when he had a major shot, like the time he scored a hole-in-one or the time he won a six-foot plush lion in a tournament, which guards the family room in his house today.

Those fond memories of my father and my grandfather, as well as the desire to better understand the injuries my fairway-friendly clients were experiencing inspired me to learn the sport myself last year.

To learn how to golf takes a lot of patience and I imagine teaching another to golf takes even more. I’m not sure Bill, my instructor, knew what was coming when he took me on as a student.

“So tell me why you want to learn to golf,” Bill said. I ticked through my mental Rolodex of all the memories of Dad and Grandpa golfing, but decided to spare him the dissertation of how much my family seemed to enjoy it.

“Well,” I replied, “I heard recently that ‘golf’ stands for ‘gentlemen only, ladies forbidden,’ and I’m a rebel at heart.” Bill stared at me blankly. I don’t think he knew how to respond and I don’t know why I volunteered that information.

He cleared his throat and said, “well, gentlemen OR ladies can play. This sport isn’t just for the guys.”

“That’s what I thought,” I said with a smile. “And that’s why I’m out here.”

Bill quickly changed the subject. “Right…let’s get started.”

He placed a ball on a tee, positioned me in the right place, and explained how to swing. “It’s a lot like sweeping a floor,” he said. “You do that at home, right?”

“Yeah, but I have a swiffer-vac, not a broom,” I said. Bill looked at me confused. “I don’t think it’s the same movement.” I took my right arm and swung it forward and backward at my side like I was pushing an imaginary vacuum.

“We’ll pretend you have a broom instead,” Bill said as he stood across from me and took my hands to guide me through a sweeping motion. “It’s like you’re sweeping the floor and you’re sweeping the ball away from you.” He guided my arms right to left so I got the feel for the sweep he expected from me. “Swing from the shoulders,” he said. “Keep your head down. Use your big-girl muscles.”

As he stepped away, I swung the club back, then brought it back to the ground. I couldn’t wait to hear the whoosh-ping I heard from the spa window so many times before. THUMP! The ball bounced up in front of me to meet me at eye level. Bill took a step back to protect himself. I had smacked the top of the ball and pushed it down against the ground, driving the tee so deep into the turf I couldn’t pull it out with my fingertips. Bill crouched down and pulled the tee out of the ground with a flat metal tool. “You really don’t do much housework, do you,” he said.

I shrugged, “told ya.”

Through the summer, I continued lessons with Bill. We spent a lot of time out on the driving range, we took a few lessons over to a green on the course to practice pitching and sand traps. I think I finally impressed Bill during our lesson in putting.

“You act like you’ve been doing this for years,” he said.

“I used to do a lot of mini golf with my family,” I explained, “put me in front of a windmill and I’m unstoppable.” I imagine Bill probably wondering how he got so lucky to get a nutty pupil like me.

Since I finished my lessons last summer, I have only golfed two 9-hole rounds. Occasionally, I have gone back to the driving range, but it seems like the balls I hit fly any direction they wish. Now, when my ball hits the fence at the side of the range, I look back and forth at the other golfers on the range, pretending to be like them, looking for the golfer who hit the wild ball.

As spring comes into bloom and I watch the golfers from the porch of the spa at the Lodge, I know I’ll get the itch to get out on the course. I think if they do the night golfing with the glowing balls I’ll participate so the darkness can provide some anonymity to this lousy player. If you see me out on the course this summer, please be sure to wave and cheer me on, but I recommend doing so only after you have put on your helmet and protective gear.–Robin