It so happens that I have recently become a VIP to The Wilds Golf Club, earning me and a guest an invitation to play in their special VIP outing. Now it gets your attention to be told that you are a VIP, but what really perked my interest was that the golf would be free, and that they were going to feed me as well.
In addition, the invitation came a few weeks ago when Minnesota was still clutched in the icy grip of a relentless winter, so the thought of spring and the opportunity to play free golf at a very nice club on April 28 was impossible to decline.
Then April 28 dawned this morning with Minnesota still clutched in the icy grip of a relentless winter.
“High today of 42 degrees, with winds 10 to 15 mph out of the north, present temperature 32,” said the guy on the radio this morning. I can’t even begin to spell the sound I made when I heard that, but FREE GOLF is FREE GOLF, no matter what it costs so I layered up, eschewed my typical broad-brimmed straw hat in favor of a woolen cabby, grabbed my clubs and a handful of Heat-Pak pocket warmers and set off for Prior Lake.
Arriving at The Wilds I changed into my golf shoes, first shaking the sand out of them from the three days of golf I endured in Arizona back in March. (I was striking the ball well for the most part those days, but had trouble getting the ball to stop in the green places where I wanted it to stop. After rolling into about my 90th sandtrap my partner commiserated, saying, “It’s target golf.” I muttered something about having a WalMart game.)
Arizona was literally and metaphorically miles away as I leaned into the wind walking toward the driving range to “warm up” — all the while hoping that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to accidentally touch my tongue to the steel shafts of my irons. I had on thick socks (inside my golf shoes), long pants, a golf shirt, a long-sleeved, high-collared golf sweater, a mid-weight jacket, a golf glove and my leather winter gloves. I distributed heat-paks to the rest of my foursome and put one pak in my right coat pocket. That felt so good. In these conditions it’s also important to keep your balls warm, so I considered unzipping my golf bag and putting a pak in the golf ball pocket. One good thing, I realized, about playing in weather like today is that I wouldn’t have to expose my fingers unnecessarily to pluck grass and toss it into the air to determine wind direction; today I merely needed to look up and make note of which direction the snow flurries were heading.
With such extra protection and unexpected advantages we actually weren’t too uncomfortable, though as we stood on one tee-box exposed to the wind whipping across Mystic Lake I suddenly heard Gordon Lightfoot in my head singing about the gales of November. Given the conditions, we actually played better than I would have expected even if the weather had been ideal. We were playing a Scramble and our group managed a very respectable 3-under for the 18 with only one bogey. We also finished in a very brisk 4 hours, mainly because we certainly weren’t spending a lot of time lining up putts. Not bad at all.
I wish I could say it was due to superior ball striking, but the reality was that while the weather may have been against us, fortune was with us for the most part. The shot of the day came when we faced a 140 yard shot, to a green below our feet, from a downhill lie in the short rough. My usual playing partner led off and skulled an 8-iron that skidded down the slope, disappeared into a gully between us and the green…and then reappeared a few moments later climbing up out of the gully and onto the green before staggering, exhausted, to a stop six feet from the flag. It was a canny shot that expertly took the wind out of play. We happily converted for another birdie.
Now that I’m back safe at home and feeling has returned to my fingertips as I type, I am eager to play again and I can’t wait for summer. I hear it’s going to be on a Thursday this year!