June 13, 2012

Taba Dale


It’s 9 PM and now that the thick clouds have sallied east, the sun is stronger than it’s been all day. To many people, that might sound strange, but bear in mind that Lahinch is only 945 miles from the Arctic Circle and the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, is right around the corner.


Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that in Norway, the northernmost inhabited region in Europe, and known as The Land of the Midnight Sun, there’s no sunset at all from mid April to mid August!


Dinner’s done. The dishwasher’s on. Kevin’s watching the telly.


“Sweetheart, how about we go play a few holes?”


“Why not!” Kevin agrees, bolting out of his chair and grabbing his clubs from the hallway nook.


I lighten my golf bag to make it easier to carry, lace up my shoes and off we go.


This is pure golf fun on the Castle Course at Lahinch. Just tee it up and hit away.


Blind first shot over a white rock. It’s a par 4 and I make a 5, so I’m happy. The turf is springy underfoot, and the greens, although a bit slow at this time of night, are running true.


Second hole is the long par-3 that’s a driver for me. My tee shot drifts out to the right. Sand wedge comes up short which begets another 5.


Third hole is a par-4 for the ladies and a par-3 for the men, with their tees nearly 100 yards ahead of mine. This setup is common over here. And yes, they are called “Ladies Tees” at Lahinch with no disrespect felt or intended. If you prefer to call them the red tees, that’s okay too.


Kevin likes to hit off my tee (about 246 yards) and tries to drive the green. Bunker for him. No problem. He holes his sand shot for an eagle. My putt just slides by the hole…darn it, so close! A tap-in 5 for me. Decent hole. The best part is, we play it the way we want to, not the way the holes go on the scorecard. Besides, tonight we don’t even bother with a card.


This evening we still have enough light to play the par-5 fourth that heads west toward the Dough Castle ruin, where the Castle Course derives its name. Hooray—a 6 for me.


More intoxicating than my string of modestly good holes is the glorious sun sinking just above the rolling hills—delivering a spectacular sky radiating orange, pink and purple. There is a seashell-shaped cloud formation hugging the horizon with gorgeous effervescent rays of light shooting upward. It looks like a giant, pulsing, fluted fan reaching to the heavens above. Truly amazing. Words cannot come close to capturing this image. Where is my camera when I need it?


We decide to turn back and play the par-5 twelfth hole. Instead of walking all the way to our normal tees however, Kevin and I play from the “junior” tees. These are defined by two round rocks painted a bright yellow, off to the right side of the fairway. This made the hole a par-4 for lucky me.


I murmur to myself, but just loud enough for Kevin to hear, “Let me see if I can find something here,” and manage to produce a prodigious drive right into a narrow gap about 100 yards from the green. I foozle a 9-iron, but chip on and make another 5.


“Do you want to play the short (par-3) thirteenth or just play eighteen?” Kevin bids.


The light is fading fast; I say, “Let’s just play the eighteenth.”


We have to negotiate a steep hill of tall grass and descend into a sea of delicate little yellow buttercups. With the beautiful birdsong of the daytime eerily absent and a thin band of sky ablaze in the distance, the two of us slowly wade through the un-manicured field to the last hole. It’s magical. Mystical even.


Kevin launches his drive to the left of the white rock. Far left. I send my drive to the right of the rock. Far right. In fact, I’m in the rough by the first fairway.


I have to climb up on a little dune to find the green. Okay—red flag—got the line.


This is a completely blind shot over about 150 yards of dense linksy growth. I pull my 7-wood from the bag and with absolute conviction, commit to the shot.  It’ll have to be heroic to get anywhere near the green. Alone in the dim light, I’m completely calm and execute a perfect swing.


Seconds later, I hear, “Great shot!” called out in a combo of joy and disbelief.


I emerge from the grassy hollow and walk toward the green. Turns out it truly is one of the best shots I’ve ever pulled off.


From just short of the green, I chip to about 6 feet and sink the putt to finish with a par.  Six over for six holes—it’ll probably be my best “round” of the summer.


I’m reminded of a Bobby Jones quote from his book, Down the Fairway: “There are two kinds of golf: golf—and tournament golf. And they are not at all the same thing.”


For me, there is golf, where we are expected to perform and it’s all about the score. And then there’s golf like tonight—where the reward is a superb sunset while we wander betwixt the wildflowers—finding joy at the junction of zen and golf.


And further, take it from that famous Head Professional, Albert Einstein (1879-1955), who had a  sign hanging in his office at Princeton:


“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”