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Down East With Dad And Donald Ross

Between the view and the muscularity of the broad, rolling terrain, the downhill dogleg par-four first exudes enormity, yet instead of making you feel small, it makes you feel a part of something bigger. That sensation, for me, brought Ireland's Ballybunion to mind, and perhaps it's no surprise then that Belgrade Lakes's architect was Clive Clark, the legendary Brit. This is his only U.S. creation to date.

The rain worsens, so much so that Dad doesn't bother playing holes three through nine. But he gets out of the cart and takes it all in. The third is a marvel both of aesthetics and engineering. Thousands of granite boulders, artfully stacked, line the entire right side of the fairway. The structure looks like all twelve of Hercules' labors rolled into one, and yet, impossibly, the entire course was built in just a little more than a year. Suffice it to say that sopping wet after slogging around, Dad and I agree that given one course to play the rest of our lives, this one merits consideration. The funny thing is, the rain forces me to slow down and focus, and I end up playing the steady, neat game of my father--nothing worse than bogey all day.

In the clubhouse after the round, we run into the grandfatherly Harold Alfond, the Dexter shoe magnate who helped commission the course. After paying our respects to his masterpiece, Dad asks him the question I want to ask, albeit not in the words I would have chosen: "What made you decide to build this thing out here in the middle of nowhere?"

He smiles and makes the most elegant motion I see all week: an arm extended outward to the view outside, one that demands new adjectives be devised. A proud father and rightly so.

We end our trip with Province Lake Golf Club, a pleasant layout not worth the two-hour drive from Bethel but not bad either. My game reverts back to its inconstancy, Dad's to its efficiency. Someone is scripting the eighteenth hole: Blinding late-afternoon sunlight comes over the hilltop straight into our eyes; I watch Dad's drive, he watches mine and we trundle up the fairway; on the green, we putt out and shake hands.

A wedding reception is in full stride out on the patio, and as we drive past, Dad says, "Think they'll mind if we grab a little champagne?" I'm thinking the same thing.


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