Lyle's Blog

Ugly Golf

Monday, April 20, 2009

I don't remember the year that it all started but it must have been shortly after the turn of the century and at the latest, 2002. Mountain High had closed down it's golf course and Judy and I were looking for a new place to walk. We drove down the ditch road close to where we lived in Deschutes River Woods and walked the front nine holes of the now defunct course.

I remember walking by one of the old sand traps that still had a rake in it. Judy saw the rake and said, "Hey look honey, someone left their rake all the way out here.". I told her what the rake was used for and we both had a good laugh. Later that evening, I called my buddy, Frank Patka, up and told him that I had a place that I wanted him to see. I brought a couple of old clubs with me and a few old balls. With that and our sometimes warped imagination, a new sport was formed that we appropriately called "Ugly Golf".

This sport became my retreat. A sort of solace from the storm. And I did not realize just how important it was until 2004, when the closing of the old truck stop hit me. That year, as the worry of the possibility of it happening weighed heavy on me, I would grab Frank and get away for a couple of hours. On warmer days, we would ice up a couple of drinks and have a cold one while we talked about the game and my up coming dilemma.

We set our own rules. After all, we were the founders of ugly golf. There were no longer any holes, so we used the sand traps as our goals. In case of no sand traps, we used the long faded greens, that we called browns do to the loss of their color. Since we are not the greatest golfers, we set our own rules about hooking or slicing. We allowed the golfer to throw his ball back on to the fairway which we later renamed the roughway when the weeds started to get longer. We scored by hole. The one who got the hole in the shortest strokes won it and gained a point. We ended up allowing for three clubs. A driver, a long iron, and a short iron.

As the years progressed and the game went on, we even lovingly named most of the holes after eventful outings. There was the hole of legend, where Frank stepped up and drove around 200 yards. I was up next and hit my ball perfect...so perfect that it actually hit his and knocked it off to the side a little further past mine. And the infamous cell phone hole. Frank was chipping up to the brown and his office manager called him. "Listen to this.", Frank said as he placed his cell phone right past his ball so his employee could hear the ping of his hit. With a swing, Frank hit his cell phone instead of his ball. He was quite fortunate that the phone still worked after the hit. And there was the sputnik hole where our buddy, Billy hit his ball over 360 yards but what made the drive so impressive was that he hit it over the top of a huge Ponderosa Pine so it was like a 360 yard chip.

We would finish off our game at the old hole five. The island hole where the brown was an island surrounded by water. If you got your shot on the island, you won the hole. From there, if your score was tied, we had what we called a chip off. There was a circle in the middle of the island caused by a motor cyclist who had cut a cookie. We placed our ball in the circle and chipped to the large tree at the back of the island. The one whose ball landed closest to the tree was the winner and won the ugly cap until the next round. One of the girls at work took an old cap of mine, glued a plastic golf ball on top and sewed "Uggly Golf" on the front. I still have the cap in my office drawer to this day.

My best round came the day that I was told of the demise of the truck stop. I called Frank up and told him that I needed to get away. In my state of shock, I was unconscious on the course and won every hole. It just goes to show how sometimes we think to much when we golf which actually hurts our game. As the coming weeks and months progressed, I found myself out at the course quite often and am so thankful for the solace that it gave me in those very trying times.

There were some other very memorable games in those few years that we played. Once, Frank and I hit our first balls and as we started down the course, a man walked out of the woods with a bow and arrow at his side. We froze not knowing what the man had in mind. We soon found out that he was camping out there and wanted to know if we knew someone who might want to buy his bow and arrows. We spent that round throwing out stories of psycho archers hiding in the bushes stalking our every move. It actually kind of freaked us out a little and we were very relieved to see him back at his camp as we made our way back up the other side of the course.

Another time, we brought three others out and half way through the course, a huge storm hit. We huddled under a tree while the rain poured down and the lightning was at it's worst. When the storm did not subside, we played in the downpour soaking us to the skin. But we were avid ugly golfers and were not going to give up or give in and were determined to finish off the game. We ended up after the sun had gone down, tying up at the last hole. In the dark, we all chipped off and on our hands and knees determined that Frank's ball was the closest to the tree. That game was the first and last for one of our friends that we had invited out on our much loved adventure.

The course has long since grown over so much that it is very much harder to play except in the early spring when the weeds are knocked down from the past winter but the course is still there. Our old clubhouse (the toilet on the sixth hole) still stands but has been vandalized and tagged by taggers but the memories still and forever will remain. And those years and the escape that this sport gave us will be forever and lovingly be ingrained in my memory brought back up and refreshed last night as I copied over some old videos to disc. Judy had come along with us in the spring as I got away while preparing the new building for the move. Frank along with our other ugly golf buddies, Terry, Billy, and Justin were video taped enjoying that favorite sport.

And years later, I realize just how important it was during the most trying of times. It became one of the relief valves of my life. An item that we all need from time to time.

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