I don’t think that he planned it this way, but The Scrambler has found a unique way to mark the fifth anniversary of the first, truly monumental BuffaloGolfer.Com sojourn: The American Club. That’s the fancy name for the place that Dustin Johnson might choose to forget, the umbrella for Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits. It is the most opulent joint I’ve ever bunked, and that includes a number of elite Motel 6 franchises. When I think back to the thread count in the sheets, the support of the mattresses and the absolutely marshmallow-soft pillows, I simultaneously shiver and weep. How can life be so good, for so few, all the time?
The Scrambler flies out of Buffalo-Niagara on Sunday morning, tees it up at The Irish Course that afternoon and the fun begins. He has a caddie reserved (trust me, you want to play these courses with a caddie!) Monday brings the two Blackwolf Run courses and Tuesday, in proper fashion, brings the Straits course with a second caddie. Not only is Scrambler honoring the fifth birthday at nearly the same time of year, he also is playing the courses in the same order that we (Duff, Scrambler and I) did back then. To commemorate in my small way, here are the words I typed after returning to western New York, post Memorial Day, 2006:
Distances are minimized with the continued growth of the internet. On the user end, we have access to golfing web sites from the entire world. On the provider end, golf businesses are intent on portraying every last detail lucidly on these web sites. We live vicariously through the photography and wordsmithing that frame courses such as Old Head in Ireland, resorts of the ilk of Bandon Dunes in Oregon, or The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin.
There was nothing guarded nor cautious about the enthusiasm that I felt one Friday in May when The Scrambler, Travelin’ Duff and I set off on the eleven-hour journey from Buffalo to Kohler. Any strains of let-down had disappeared the previous August, when I had visited Bandon, Oregon, to play the three transcendent courses at Mike Keiser’s little place by the sea. I knew then that things would never be the same, that golf and the trappings at resorts like these would provide an experience of inimitable quality. In Bandon, Mrs. Mo and I stayed off-resort, in town. In Kohler, the Three Musketeers would spend three nights amid the luxury created by Herb Kohler.
There’s a lot to be said for Ohio and Indiana, but what I remember most is the flatness. That is, when I was awake. I took the first six-hour shift behind the wheel of Old Gory, the green ’98 caravan that gets me from A to B, then settled in to my captain’s chair for a snooze. Chicago, like Buffalo, was under construction. Milwaukee look like an archeological dig. When we left brew-town in the rearview mirror, sometime around 10 pm CST, I started to look ahead anxiously.
The American Club sits in mid-town Kohler. While cruising the main drag, it occurs to you that all was planned to look like the quintessential mid-country town, where everyone gets along, where litter never touches the sidewalk, where wood ages without turning color. There are understated shopping plazas, immense manicured lawns, funky statues, and playing fields. You pass the Sports Core, the incredibly-thorough workout facility, and arrive at the main facility. Doormen greet you, although not at 11 in the evening! Gravity motivated us out of the van, up the steps, and into some bucolic paradise. The path from the main lobby to our room required the traversing of four corridors, three staircases, and one elevator shaft. Along the way, we would pass two gardens of exploding scents and underappreciated colors, one ice cream parlor imported from americana, a study and a spa. There was also a fine English-style pub on grounds, but the Sabres lost that night, so we hewed it from our memory.
The room was appointed with mattresses of uncompromising stability. Duff and I drew the long straws, so Scrambler got the cot. Yes, it was a weekend of primal male bonding, but no one wants to get THAT close to the Scrambler, other than Mrs. Scrambler. The fixtures were Kohler’s finest (big shock, that one), and the cabinetry evoked the handiwork of the finest woodworkers.
DAY ONE: In a nutshell, this was wake-up, Irish course, nap in the room, work out in the fitness facility, and crash. We ate some breakfast at Whistling Straits, where the two courses (Irish and Straits) along Lake Michigan are housed, then headed out on foot to challenge the Irish course. With the exception of the 18th hole, which none of us liked, the Irish course provided the perfect opening round. In fact, if you do journey to Kohler, play the Irish before you play the Straits. It’s like reading Angels and Demons before The daVinci Code. It all flows like currency. The Sports Core provided a terrific opportunity to swim, lift weights, run or stair or play tennis, and do some ab work. I highly recommend a visit. After such a trying day, the pillows and mattresses never felt so good!
DAY TWO: This day was one of penance. We had the physical hangover from the eleven-hour trip, the round of golf, and the workout. Playing thirty-six holes (even with carts) was exhausting, and made us feel less than old, basically washed up. To make matters worse, our birdie-less streak reached 54 holes each. What are the odds that three fairly-accomplished golfers would complete 162 holes without going under par once? The two inland courses (Blackwolf Run River and Meadows Valley) seek precise shots and mete out punishment for wayward ones.
DAY THREE: Although we knew that a twelve-hour drive (add the hour for time change) awaited us, we could not wait to play the Straits course along Lake Michigan. Part of the anticipation related to caddies; none of us takes a caddie with any regularity. Duff had never had a looper, while I had only had little Mo’ on the bag once. As far as the Scrambler, like most things in his life, it was a mystery. The Straits and its caddies not disappoint. On the first hole (bragging a bit), my caddie read a twenty-footer on the money, and the first birdie of the weekend dropped. Straits, like Irish, dares you to attempt the heroic shot. If you do so, you will leave fulfilled.