Part One: The Seven Stages of Fall Muni Golf

Given the fortune of working near Colvin & Amherst, knowing that child # 4 would be at play rehearsal until 8 pm, I dropped # 3 off at dance and shot back to work this afternoon. Not to do additional work, mind you, but to park the car, grab the sack from the trunk and head over to the 16th deck at Delaware Park.

I’m convinced, now, that coming to know D-Park’s golf course (the Meadows) is akin to passing through the seven stages of grief. Bear with me, faithful readers, as I transgress and traverse this slippery slope.

Stage One: Shock & Denial
Delaware Park Meadows, on an early November afternoon, isn’t well trimmed. With a rohrshach of leaves scattered about, the hairy turf combines to do its able best to hide your tee ball from view. The shock and denial varies its timbre, from “I cannot believe that $%^& ball is not here!” to “How can you lose a $%^& ball in the middle of the fairway, in an unraked bunker?” The denial often ranges from “I deserve to have 9-iron in…I’ll just drop one” to much worse.

Stage Two: Pain & Guilt
Must I really explain this one? Very well. Knowing that I could have ponied up a few bucks to play at Sheridan, Brighton or one of the other public-access courses, there is no doubt some guilt associated with having a sneak onto DPM. I assuaged these feelings of remorse by caring for the golf course. I was first shocked that there would be an ball marks in these greens at all; presented proof beyond doubt of their craterdom, I repaired a healthy number of the little divots. In my mind, this paid for my 7-hole green fee (12-18). The pain? Well, this took place over the first three holes. 16 is no easy hole on which to start. It invariably plays soft and into the wind, so you get little roll and hit three more clubs than called for by the yardage. The putting green is a miniscule target at the end of a fat ribbon, so being aboard in regulation is uncommon and boast-worthy. It’s a fine par 4.5 and should be treated that way. #17 plays the opposite way to an equally-wide fairway. Miss it a bit left or right and your aerial path could be blocked by some unexpected tree trouble (the stuff on the left is sillier than the right, as there is one solitary trunk with which to contend along the port side. An entire stand roams the starboard. #18 demands two good strikes with metal woods to reach the 50 yard brick. Anything less and you feel like you’re scrambling on this deceptively-challenging par five closer. After navigating these three runs, I stood on the 12th tee, unsure of where my swing was.

Stage Three: Anger & Bargaining
This is the point where you start to hurl (clubs, not vomit) or near-hurl, then catch yourself and beg Saints Andrew and Byron to please return your rightful, authentic swing to you. The need to hold on to something is precisely what keeps you from experiencing your potential, but you still have three stages to pass before you remember this. I believe it was either the wedge left short on #17 with ball one or the punched 4-iron from behind the port tree with ball two that I aimed at the wrong green, that thrust me onto this stage.

Stage Four: Depression, Reflection, Loneliness
Since I knew that I had stolen these holes (and not forked over any Hamiltons), this stage was gracefully brief. I believe it began as I left the 17th (my 2nd) green and ended by the time I left the 18th tee, after two low-left drives. In retrospect, I know this stage to be capable of torment and considered myself most fortunate to spend precious little time there. There are wonderful moments of solitary reflection in life; when combined with a downward depression, they ain’t no fun.

Stage Five: The Upward Turn
This began when I found my first ball on #12. Behind the two trees on the left side of the fairway, I need a smoked, low yet rising 3-metal to get back to position…and I got it. Whether I targeted the proper blade of grass behind my ball or found my rhythm, that shell took off like wildfire and rose, carrying the sole fairway bunker on the hole. With wedge in hand, I hit the sloped green and walked off with a near-birdie.

Stage Six: Reconstruction & Working Through
If you’ve played the 13th and 14th holes at D-Park Meadows, you know what a calamity they are. When the trees are fully leafed, you can barely see either flagstick on these consecutive par threes. 13 plays directly into/over Sherwood Forest, demanding a 40-yard hook, a hard punch of 180 yards, or a skyrocket over the canopy. I abandoned the draw I’d been playing, aimed a bit left with my 4-iron and blasted three high cuts over the highest leaves. One found the green and two nestled in the fringe, leaving me as satisfied as I’d felt all afternoon…until I played the 14th. On #14, I was forced to revert to the draw by Mother Nature, this time with a 5-iron. If you’ve not played the hole, it’s a tunnel of crossed swords (like at a military wedding), only the swords are tree branches. That you’re a few steps from Baller Corner, where hoops reigns, adds to the gallery size and the sweat on the palms. Once again, three tight swings produced three neat draws that found putting surface-putting surface-fringe.

Stage Seven: Acceptance & Hope
Hole #15 is a 360-yard par four, whose line of charm draws you leftward, toward the dangerous rocks of the Sirens. I aimed instead at the Zoo, or at least at a tree some 70 yards off the green in the direction of the American Bison. I felt the club lock into the slot, the arms working in unison, and pumped three taut ropes at the tree. That I found the triad of balls was miraculous; that they were all 105 yards off the green, on a day with little roll, was monumental.

I’m going to continue to steal holes throughout western New York, as long as the snow don’t fly. Although it predates this dance around Delaware, I’ve left my round at Byrncliff for Part Two.