Having grown up right down the street from a popular golf course and club, I am an authority on the entertainment and great fun that kids can have using it as a vast playground. It was like our own personal recreation center.
Most of our fun took place after the golfers vacated the links. It would be very difficult to do much of anything if we had to dodge golf balls. We often would feel quite put out if there were late groups of golfers that we would have to wait for to finish their play in the afternoon or early evening.
During the long, summer months, my brothers and their friends often used the fairways as a football field. There would be groups of kids on the sidelines watching the action–some waiting to have a turn in the game–others just cheering on their favorites.
My girlfriends, and sisters and I would practice cartwheels and cheers and my best friend taught me how to do my first backbend out on the golf course. We also took our batons out there to practice our favorite twirling moves. We would oftentimes lie up on the slope between the fairway and the green and stare up into the air watching the clouds shift their shapes and move across the sky. We saw so much…
My best friend and I also had a favorite tree on the golf course. It was a tall, wide and sturdy oak with broad, thick branches that we would lay on and feel the breezes blowing through. It was so calming and relaxing to lie there–hidden in the leaves while watching the world go by from our protected vantage point.
We also loved to dig in the bunkers (sand traps) and make castles or cover ourselves in the fine, cool, white sand. We always used the rakes left out there to smooth over our creations after we were done. That was fun too–raking the sand. On occasion, one of the neighbors would come out and yell at us to get out of there–we had no clue as to how we could possibly be bothering her. Years later, after becoming a golfer myself, I realized that what we did was probably not the best thing to have been doing. But all we knew was that they were like a giant sandbox just screaming for us to jump in. If there was a pile of dirt anywhere, we were drawn to it like a kid to a candy shop.
It was a favorite place to find lightning bugs on late summer evenings too. Their bright, twinkling lights showed up very well in the wooded areas on the outskirts of the fairways. Those bugs gave a magical, fairyland feel to our neighborhood nights.
Another fun thing to do in the summer was to watch the bats come out at dusk. They could very clearly be seen in the open space of the golf course. Their erratic flight while they looked for bugs thrilled us. Sometimes we would throw our shoes up and watch them dart quickly after them thinking they may be a food source.
We explored the water hazards, sometimes wading in to find abandoned golf balls that we would then sell back to the golfers. We would find minnows and tadpoles, crayfish and other interesting things in the water. Many wading birds and ducks could be found in the waters too.
One of my brothers went through a snake hunting phase and would bring various snakes home that he had caught–many of them found around the lush, wooded areas around the golf course. He wasn’t allowed to keep them for any length of time but I do remember a wooden box with a screen-covered top that he had made to temporarily house them until our mother would finally command him to turn them loose. I wasn’t afraid of them and would touch their smooth, sleek, scaled skin while he gently held the head well away from me. On occasion, he would find one that was shedding its skin–we were particularly fascinated by that process. None were poisonous of course.
The club house had a swimming pool to which my best friend and I would ride our bikes to on blistering, summer days. It cost fifty cents for an all day swim in the pool. It was bliss. We would explore the clubhouse, maybe buy a Coke or snack and swim until our eyes were bloodshot–we got our money’s worth.
That same pool was the object of some of our late night adventures when we were teenagers. We would put our swimsuits on, grab a towel and walk up to the clubhouse in the late hours of the night and slip into the cool water of the pool if we could get away with it. One big obstacle to this plan was Cottentop.
Cottentop, as we kids (un-affectionately) called him, because of his bright, white hair, was the grounds keeper in charge of the golf course. He was the bane of our fun. He patrolled around in a golf cart–his shock of white hair could be spotted from quite a distance and we would sound the alarm with a scream that “Cottentop’s coming!” if he came towards our direction. We would take off and scatter until the coast was clear.
We also would play in the gigantic sprinklers used to water the course at night. Donning our bathing suits, we would scamper around and dash in and out of the cool, spraying water. There were no boundaries to the fun that we would take advantage of.
When we became older and had outgrown the digging in the bunkers, sprinklers, etc, we would spend time gazing up at the stars with a sister or brother or two. We would recline out there in the darkness and observe the thousands of stars in our view and occasionally spot them shooting across the sky. And later, when we came to be interested in our spiritual nature, we would spend hours contemplating life and sharing philosophical ideas with each other, lying out there in the moonlight. Some of my dates would end up out there too–we would lie in the soft grass, gazing far up into the sky while cuddling.
The golf course was such a fundamental part of my growing up. So many good memories are bound to it–hiking, exploring, observing nature and looking for God–I found Her there.
This is a postcard picture of what the pool looked like when I swam there as a child.