Billy's words were running through my head the entire front nine. "Wait until you see No. 13," he said more than once. "It is a beautiful golf hole." I was anticipating being awestruck as we made our way along the cart path heading to the tee. I was not disappointed.
A short little par 3 that measures 127 yards from the white tees, it is, according to the card, the easiest hole on the course. That may be debatable, but there is no question it is the second-most scenic golf hole I have ever seen. Keep in mind, I have walked along the 18th at Pebble Beach on two occasions, and second place is what all other golf holes will have to aspire to on my list.
This hole features a circular green with tall trees backing up a small stream behind the putting surface. The hill that descends from the tee to the green is covered by wildflowers. By the way, did I tell you the drop from the tee to the green is nearly 100 feet? Standing on the tee you are mesmerized by the beauty of your surroundings.
A pitching wedge is all you will need, says my friend. Now I have never hit a wedge more than 100 yards in my life, so I go with my 9. The pin is back left and the downhill effect can't be that great. At least that's what I'm thinking.
I swing and make solid contact, and the ball flies majestically through the air. It hits about 10 feet from the pin, takes one bounce and disappears over the green. I will find it later as it just trickled into the small creek, playable if I'm willing to disturb this wonderful slice of nature. I was not.
A drop, chip and a two-putt double bogey did not take away from the joy of playing this hole. Just traveling to the green was fun. The cart path went back and forth, slowly meandering to the bottom of the hill. To go directly down the slope would have been akin to being on a thrill ride at Cedar Point.
The 13th at Dorchester Golf Club in Fairfield Glade, Tenn., was my favorite, but taking out a camera on any hole in this resort community would give you a snapshot postcard. Dorchester and Druid Hills were gorgeous, and I am looking forward to a return trip in the future. That will include playing Stonehenge and Heatherhurst, which features two 18-hole courses, The Brae and The Crag.
Some half-dozen years ago, Bill and Corrine Custer decided to retire to Fairfield Glade. They are both avid golfers and once they visited the area and played the 90 holes of championship golf, they were hooked. They built a home and the sign on the mailbox lets you know that you've arrived at Custer's Last Stand.
I had been to The Stand on three previous occasions, but each time it was on the way home from a January golf trip to Florida. Those stops were memorable because of Cor's home cooking, but playing golf was not possible. This time the express purpose of the visit was to play golf.
My buddies and I were scheduled to arrive Thursday evening with golf scheduled for Friday, Saturday and possibly Sunday. After checking the weather forecast we determined the best day to play would be Thursday. So we left at 4 o'clock Thursday morning to be able to play that afternoon. Golfers understand that sometimes you have to sacrifice to play this game we love. A lack of sleep seems like a small price to pay.
Part of the beauty of the resort is the flora and fauna. As we sat out on The Stand's deck I noticed several hummingbirds feeding. As Bill pointed out, the birds were back after spending the winter in South America. Can you imagine those little creatures flying all the way there and back every year?
I heard a woodpecker on the course one day but could not see it. Fairfield Glade has pileated woodpeckers that measure 19 inches in length. That would be about the size of Woody, I believe.
In the evening it is quite common to see deer along the golf courses or even in the backyard. Bill told the story of playing golf one day and as he approached a green he noticed two fox kits playing in the bunker. Sharing the course with wildlife is always a cool thing, unless of course, they bolt while you are trying to hit the ball. Who am I kidding? You cannot take a man's focus away if he has none to begin with.
On this spring day in mid-April, the dogwoods were in full bloom and I was focusing on the beauty of the place. I would like to tell you my score matched that beauty, but that would be stretching the truth, if not telling an outright lie. I did not play well, but you would have had a hard time wiping the smile off my face. Yes, the courses were that majestic.
I took some ribbing for my play as we changed partners each day. Only one of the four came up on the losing end each day and it would not take a genius to figure out who that was. It did hurt a little one night when I was the first to retire. One of the guys asked another who his partner was for the next day. When he said it was yours truly, the first guy replied with "Oh, you got the loser." I shouted from the nearby bedroom, "Hey, I'm not asleep yet!"
We managed to get in nine holes Friday before the rain started. By Saturday morning nearly four inches of the wet stuff had fallen and the temperatures dropped into the 40s. Not deterred we played the full 18 holes at Druid Hills Golf Club. It was a lengthy day as we got behind a couple of foursomes who were very slow. A round that takes 5:45 minutes to play under some adverse weather conditions would normally have most golfers livid. I wasn't however, as I just looked at the gorgeous layout and smiled.
One thought keeps running through my head since my return home. Billy made a comment when I suggested to him (as if he didn't know) that the area was just lovely. He said simply, "You should see it in the fall."
I'll be waiting for his call that lets me know when the leaves start changing colors. Then I will book a room at Custer's Last Stand.
Al Stephenson is The A-T golf columnist.
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