Morning stroll on the golf course

Just when you least expect it, magic happens. I have walked this course twice before while in Spain at Santa Maria Golf Club, but I didn’t notice something out of the ordinary until yesterday. So to be fair, it didn’t magically happen — in actuality, it was there all along.

This is why occasionally, I like to leave my clubs behind, and walk a course while Kevin plays. The world goes by much slower as you put one foot in front of the other, and focus on the wonders of nature, rather than your game.


Trees provide more than just shade

At one point, I found myself standing behind a tall cork oak tree with a very thick trunk, several yards from the green of the par-3 fifteenth hole. Kevin’s foursome was holing out and this happened to be a nice shady spot to wait. The tee box of the 15th was so high up it was no longer visible to me, but I had become familiar with its dizzying height while walking along with Kevin’s group before, when he played with the Orange Tree Golf Society. The society is run by Frank Ammar, owner of the Orange Tree Restaurant in Marbella; and it attracts an interesting assortment of English, Irish, and German expats. A golfer from Norway often plays in this league too.

While Kevin’s group was making their way to the sixteenth tee box, I stayed planted right where I was, checking my iPhone app for how many steps I had walked. Nearly five miles! Since I wasn’t playing, just strolling, I was rather proud of myself for that accomplishment.



The mighty oak does a mighty good job

A moment later, I heard a THWACK! A badly pulled tee shot from the following group struck the tree with such force I jumped a foot!

The golfer who’d fired the shot was oblivious; completely unaware that he’d nearly nailed me with a 100 mph golf ball—but for the tree.

The ball ricocheted off the oak and sped like a bullet toward my group who were on the next tee getting ready to attack the fairway of the par-4 sixteenth hole. But Kevin and crew were blissfully unaware of what had happened —rather nearly happened to me. While they all hit their drives, I emerged from behind the mighty oak shield and hung back to point to where the errant, and probably scarred, ball had landed.

Having literally dodged a dimpled white bullet, then performed a much appreciated courtesy, that probably saved the golfer and his foursome many frustrating minutes searching for his ball, I went to catch up with Kevin’s group.


The magic around us – when we see it

This heavily shaded part of the course was still wet from the morning dew, so I opted for the cart path. I took about ten steps, then froze when I happened to notice an oddity I’d never seen before in my life—and I travel the world. Had events not conspired to put me in that place at that moment, I would have missed this magical specimen, rising out of the earth before me. It wasn’t like the lush, undulating sea of spotted Spanish clover that Kevin and I saw on our walk near our hotel room. Nor was it like the giant, colorful lantana bush outside the gates of the fragrant orange grove. It was even more sublime than hearing the babbling brook near the dense stand of bamboo while the birds were twittering high in the towering pines.


The bulbous shape at the bottom was like a wheel-thrown vase with a footed base. Only it wasn’t a vase— it was a tree! Now completely fascinated, I saw that the grey bark of this bizarre flora was covered in hard pointed thorns. Like a rose bush, but ten times bigger. When I walked up to it and took a closer look, it appeared as if the tree was covered with hundreds of tiny unicorns.
Later, I looked it up online. It’s called a Ceiba Speciosa, or silk floss tree, due to the silk-like fibers displayed when the fruit pod opens.


Regardless of its scientific name, in my magical world, I have renamed it The Unicorn Tree!