Newsletters  | Mobile

A Golfer's Memoir | T+L Golf

Martin O’Neill Illustration

Photo: Martin O’Neill

The cracked windshield is believable, but the dead dog is probably a Jack Garrity embellishment. A dog of that era would have been out on the course with the golfers, not panting on the front seat of a Model A.

I am speaking, of course, of hard-sand greens. I realize that there were soft-sand greens, which had to be hand-dragged and smoothed out before and after each putt. These courses were common in Kansas and Missouri, and I played many of them in later years. Most sand-green courses were nine-holers, rarely exceeding 2,500 yards, but there were notable exceptions in cities like Minneapolis and Chicago, which had eighteen-hole hard-sand courses measuring almost six thousand yards. In Pinehurst, North Carolina, the early resort courses—including Donald Ross’s inimitable Pinehurst No. 2—had sand greens.

Sunday was golf day. In those days, everybody worked six full days—even the children, who usually had summer jobs almost as demanding as those of their elders—so there were few opportunities to play during the week. But on Sunday we could play from sunup to sundown, as long as there was no snow on the ground. There was no formality about starting times. At dawn, those who were ready just stepped up and belted the ball down the first fairway. We usually played nine holes in less than an hour and a half, and there were no tie-ups so typical of today’s play: no practice swings, no temper tantrums, no showboating. We just hit the ball in the general direction of the flagstick, pitched up to the green and putted out.

We had no access to food or drink on the course, so we all brought sandwiches and cookies. We also had an artesian well with winch, rope, bucket and dipper. Bad weather was no deterrent, and on many a Sunday we played six, seven or even eight rounds, stopping only when it was too dark to follow the flight of the ball.

Among our golfers there was a refreshing lack of distinction as to age, wealth, social position or professional status. Everyone was on a first-name basis, and there was a genuine warmth that only a closely knit, neighborly community can generate. For example, I, a teenager, often played with the finest trial lawyer in the state, a banker who owned much of St. Croix County, an aging grocery clerk, an executive vice president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, an automobile mechanic, a young chemical engineer who was destined to become chairman of the board of one of America’s great corporations, and a retired school teacher. We were all brought together, once a week, because we shared a love of golf.

In the early 1980s, when Dad’s name appeared in a Sports Illustrated column I wrote, he got a long-distance call from an old schoolmate who had worked at his side in a cranberry bog. "You old sonofabitch," Dad bellowed into the mouthpiece. "What have you been doing all these years?" The caller replied: "I’m a retired admiral."

As I mentioned, the New Richmond Golf Club was on eighty acres enclosed by four boundary fences.

Forty-five acres, according to Reppe.


Sign Up

Connect With Travel + Leisure
  • Travel+Leisure
  • Tablet
  • Available devices

Already a subscriber?
Get FREE ACCESS to the digital edition