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Who Goes There? Patriot, Loyalist or Golfer?

Actually, Williamsburg is organized around a changing schedule of re-created dates and events from the mid-eighteenth century. I was there for a "Days in History" week, during which employees reenacted a four-day cycle of events from way back when. Sunday, for example, the day I arrived, was May 8, 1769, in Colonial Williamsburg time, or "Rule Britannia" day. As it's characterized in the literature, the day was a "high point in the colonists' relationship with the crown." Among the highlights were local court sessions and a discussion at the capitol among burgesses and "other gentlemen of influence" about pressing issues, in particular the slave trade.

Monday was April 29, 1775, otherwise known as "The Gathering Storm," when antagonism between colonists and the British began to boil over. Tuesday brought November 17, 1775, when "The Sword Is Drawn," and we were asked to "Choose your side: patriot or loyalist." If you chose the former, you could enlist in the second Virginia regiment and march along Duke of Gloucester Street with the fife-and-drum corps under the review of Patrick Henry himself. The fourth and final program, on Wednesday, was May 15, 1776, when "Virginia Declares Independence!"

My biases about "living history" notwithstanding, I had booked a room at the Williamsburg Lodge, one of five options for accommodation belonging to the Colonial Williamsburg historical complex (a double entendre that nicely captured my attitude toward the place). The Historic Area also includes a number of modern, that is to say nontavern-type, restaurants and shops, and, of course, the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club at Colonial Williamsburg, which was to be my first stop. While the Lodge is conveniently located near four of the six courses I was intending to play, its location in the Historic Area left me little choice but to get in the colonial swing of things. I mean, the bellhops and doormen are all in period garb. If you ask the bartenders at the hotel lounge where you might get some great seafood in the area, they'll instantly call to reserve you a table at one of Colonial Williamsburg's many fine restaurants. The place is completely contained and auto-referential. You could live in the eighteenth century interminably.

I decided to negotiate "our nation's largest outdoor living history museum" more or less the way I do New York City: mind my own business, avoid eye contact and try to get lost in my own reveries. Whenever I detected anything interactive about to happen, whenever I saw the likes of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson ambling toward me, looking as if they may want to engage in a discussion of the day's issues, I'd duck behind a post or into a souvenir shop.

But when I walked across the road from the Lodge to Golden Horseshoe on my first morning in Williamsburg, I could not avoid the man in period garb who came driving up in a golf cart. He gave me a warm Southern welcome, checked my tee time and whisked me off to the clubhouse. It soon occurred to me that golf was just another form of being trapped in a recurring past; it's a realm of hauntingly familiar predicaments, unavoidable mistakes and exceptional triumphs, and it should therefore be approached with the same strategy I'd been employing for Colonial Williamsburg: stay to myself, avoid embarrassments and, amid the unalterable press of fate, delight in the occasional anomaly, i.e., a good

I Played Golden Horseshoe's Gold Course The first day. There are now three courses at Golden Horseshoe: the championship Gold and Green courses and the nine-hole, executive-length Spotswood course. The Gold course is the original, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1963 and recently renovated by his son Rees. It is about as pretty and pleasant a golf challenge as you'll encounter. Built on the site of a former plantation, the Gold seems to barely interrupt the rolling terrain from which it's carved, offering stunning panoramas from almost every tee. Trent Jones Sr. said it was his "finest design."


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