Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Around the World

In 1994, longtime award-winning sports columnist Dave Kindred and Tom Callahan set off on a dream assignment, funded by a book advance from their publisher, Doubleday.  They traveled the world (though not by hot-air balloon) in search of the most unique golfing venues on the planet.  Kindred listed his favorite holes from that trip and the most unusual golf shot of his life from quite the historic teeing ground.  (The book is 'Around the World in 18 Holes')

5.  The 17th at Akureyri Golf Club, Akureyri, Iceland.  A par 5 of 518 yards, mostly uphill between black lava rock fields.  At 3:17a.m. - this was June near the Arctic Circle with 24 hours of daylight - I hit a driver off the tee.  Then I hit the driver off the fairway.  Because the wind was coming into us, I hit a third driver towards the green - whereupon I made a new Rule of Life: Never play uphill into a wind that five minutes ago crossed the North Pole.

4. The 13th at the Lost City Golf Course, Sun City, Bophuthatswana.  A par 3 of 178 yards, the tee shot struck from a cliff side high above a green made in the shape of the African continent.  In a massive stone pit cut about where the Atlantic Ocean would touch Nigeria, there lurked maybe 40 crocodiles up to 14 feet long, yawning, sunning, and swimming near unneccessary signs suggesting BEWARE OF CROCODILES.  My tee shot came to rest near one croc.  I left it there.

3.  The 3rd at Royal Nepal Golf Club, Kathmandu, Nepal.  A par 4 of 456 yards on a fairway of ankle deep grass (no powered mowers there) to oiled sand greens.  The 9 hole layout became "Royal" in 1965 when His Majesty King Mahendra Bir Bickram Saha Dev signed a proclamation by the glow of a Zippo lighter rushed into duty when the lights went out, a daily occurrence at the Everest Hotel.  We made bogeys at the 3rd after waiting for three little men to pass carrying a corpse bundled in a bright orange shroud on its way to cremation alongside a river that would carry the ashes to the sacred Ganges.

2.  The 10th at Le Golf du Chateau de la Salle, Macon, France.  A par 4 of 430 yards on a course designed in the shape of a woman named Nicole, once the architect Robert Berthet's mistress.  Every curve, every contour, every titillating mound on the course - no doglegs, "many womanlegs." Berthet said - was shaped according to photographs for which Nicole posed nude.  The green at the 10th was Nicole's foot tucked up over an ankle, guarded by five sand traps arranged as toes.

1.  The not really a hole at the Great Wall of China.  It was impossible.  It was unthinkable.  It would have been unbecoming of any golfer to walk on the Great Wall without hitting a shot from its surface.  So I dialed my adjustable club to an 8 iron setting, teed up a Titleist on the peak of my baseball bap - and here's what my coauthor, Tom Callahan wrote, "It flew majestically.  Not the ball, the bill of his cap "and took my own slash at history.  Somewhere in the undergrowth of Mutianyu, two dimpled orbs are waiting to drive the anthropologists nuts."