Yesterday we returned to The Cougar Trail Course at the Spring Lake Golf Resort just a few miles from sunny Buttonwood Bay. Last time we'd played there, we'd had to start on the 10th hole and by the time we'd completed 15 holes (which was the 6th of course), it was getting dark and we never played those remaining 3 holes.
Yesterday things were different as for one thing, we had an earlier tee time, being March the evenings were longer and we also started on the 1st hole.
I only mention this because I really wanted to play the famous 9th hole which, if you've read my post about it (link is above), then you'll know the green is rather larger than the norm.
Freakin' enormous actually. But more of that later.
Before we'd even set off from the clubhouse, Clair spotted a gator across the water on the far bank, not far from the 9th green as it happens. Thankfully both he and Mary had urged me to bring my camera even though last time we'd not seen much wildlife. And so I went down to the waters edge and there he was..................
Now as I may have mentioned before, I'm tight enough to want to wade into most bodies of water if there is the slightest chance that I'll find my ball or those of anyone else.
I don't mind getting a little damp in the process or even incurring the wrath of some earnest greenkeeper on a posh course but here in Florida I pretty much wave goodbye to any ball that lands within 10 yds of any stretch of water.
At 50 cents per ball, I'd rather keep my limbs.
I don't even want to follow the rules of golf and take a drop from the relevant place NEAR the water. Nope, I just drop another ball right from the same spot and try to stay on the fairway this time. If I do, I walk off with a smile on my face and wriggle my arms and legs with the quiet satisfaction that I may have taken a penalty stroke but at least I'll be able to not only walk to the flag on both legs but also remove it with a full choice of hands.
And so we played a few holes and the unrelenting sun blazed down from another clear blue Florida sky. Every so often we'd come upon other critters but none as spectacular as that first gator.
Turtles were everywhere and several would be lined up on the banks of the numerous water hazards that are a feature of this course.
I sent almost as many ball into the waters as there were turtles but that's another story.
The course was busy and I couldn't really take much time between shots to photograph the wildlife but here is a turtle.
I've no idea if he was coming up out of the water or slowly reversing into it. I'd like to think he was admiring my swing but it's hard to tell as they don't say much. Probably keeping one eye out for gators.
I was on a cart with Debby and Clair was with Mary and we usually parted company after the tee shots. We'd paid our money and were going to cover every blade of grass, dammit. And so we zig-zagged out way along each fairway stopping only to drop and whack new balls any time one of us sent one scuttling across the fairway and into the water.
The course was pretty much as flat as a proverbial pancake and the only chance we got to do any sort of uphill walking was after we'd gone down into a bunker - and even those were mostly flat.
Here is a photo of Clair holding 'the pose' long after we'd all seen the splash.
No, seriously, he played very well and as usual, any lack of technique was more than made up for by his charm and excellent company.
I think I sold myself short for that $10.
Anyway we had a load of fun which, after all, is what it's all about. He and I are probably fairly evenly matched - although if I ever hit my woods consistently, well watch out boyo.
Actually I did hit my woods pretty well yesterday and no one was more surprised than I was. I think the light rough helped a lot as the ball would sit up on the grass like on a shag pile carpet and was begging to be smacked 200 yds. One did one's best.
At one point, standing on the 10th tee, we had this stunning view of the clubhouse in all it's splendour.
The little bridge takes you over the gator infested water and then the path splits left to the 1st hole and right to the 10th.
As alternative groups are started from the 10th to speed things along (as we were last time), there can sometime be a bit of a traffic jam when those who come from the 9th naturally approach the 10th as their next hole only to find a new group waiting to tee off.
We didn't have to wait long yesterday but it did give me the time to take this photo.
We were out of our carts and chatting and as well as snapping the clubhouse, I took photos of my 3 companions. I'm including this photo of Paula Creamer, sorry, Debby, as she likes it and she doesn't say that very often about the photos I take of her.
I like it too as the look on her face perfectly sums up the fun were were having.
Speaking of fun, at this point we'd also just come from the 9th hole and that alone deserves a comment or three.
The 9th. It's only 168 yds from the white tees but it's across a large stretch of water and water is my golfing nemesis. Usually I might as well save time and throw my ball into it.
Yesterday the ball sailed across and onto the green. Hurrah. Normally this would pretty much guarantee even me a par 3 but this was no normal green.
This was the 9th green. This was a 42,000 sq ft green. That's right, 42,000 square feet. One side is on Eastern Time and the other is on Central !! My ball could've been on the edge of it and I'd still have had to use an 8 iron to get it close to the hole.
But yesterday it wasn't. I'd love to know how far away it WAS from the hole but I had to hit it with my putter harder than I've ever had to hit a putt before. It jumped into the air like a startled rabbit and fairly shot across the green and as it approached the hole, I really thought I was going to get a remarkable and totally miraculous birdie. Then it stopped and I started the long walk after it.
I stopped for a coffee and a rest room break along the way and when I finally got to the ball, I saw with a mixture of amazement and despair that it was still about 15 feet from the hole. Don't you just hate foreshortening ???
The crowd was hushed. The birds settled onto nearby branches and watched. The gator raised it's head and stopped chewing on a wildebeest leg. I stood over my ball and could hear my heart beating wildly in my chest. This was it. For a par on the largest green in golf.
I hit the ball and I think someone shouted "in the hole" but I was locked inside my own world. I could actually hear the noise of the ball as it rolled over the grass towards the hole. Time slowed down. My heart beats were booming in my ears. Half way towards the hole I thought it had a chance of going in. I looked at the hole. I looked at my ball. The distance was closing and still it was on track. I dared to hope.
The ball brushed the right lip of the hole and sailed on towards the water and the waiting gator. The crowd groaned and I sank to the grass in utter disbelief. So close.
NO IT DIDN'T.
My freakin' ball went right into the centre of the freakin' hole and I did a happy jig to end all happy jigs. Even the gator seemed to be smiling but I may have misread that look. I saw lots of teeth though. A par 3. Eh ? Eh ? Who's a clever boy, then ? Me, that's who.
Of course afterwards I'd wished I'd done one of the many Tiger Woods 'in the hole' body celebrations. The rocking forearm with clenched fist. The downward movement (aka the Home Alone Movement) of the forearm again with clenched fist. The pointing of the putter towards the hole. Even the pointing of the finger as the ball covers the last few feet and falls into the hole.
Instead I just ran around most of the 42,000 sq feet like a headless chicken with ADD.
Then we moved on to the 10th where I drove into the water and decided I hated golf !!
Further out on the course we came upon two birds (sorry I never know names - lets call them George and Mildred) who were standing on the tee and had to move.
I wanted to photograph them first but after taking this photo, they started to wander off towards the fairway and I wanted more photos.
So Mary, bless her heart, took on the role of bird whisperer and slyly managed to get alongside and then in front of them to shepherd them back towards me and my waiting camera.
They didn't take too kindly to being herded in this way and flapped their wings in annoyance. Of course this made for even more interesting photographs so I was happy enough to have
Mary was doing a great job but the birds either got bored with being treated this way or else were overtaken by some sort of sexual arousal because one of them definitely seemed to start courting the other and in a most bizarre fashion.
Both birds had waded into the water and had spread their wings a few times in what up until then we had taken to be annoyance at being moved.
But having watch hours and hours of David Attenborough's epic series over the years, I think
I know a spot of courtship when I see it.
George, on the right, started leaping up and down in the water in an obvious attempt to impress Mildred.
Being a bird, he was able to really get a good height on his jumps as he cheated by flapping his huge wings.
Mildred as not impressed as all he was really doing was splashing her with water and making an idiot of himself in the process.
She finally flew off closely followed by George who I suspect was a bit knackered after his exertions and just wanted a bit of a kiss and a cuddle as a sort of consolation prize for all his efforts.
Good luck George.
We finished the round and went into Sebring to celebrate a good day out in the time honoured way of all golf professionals - we went for a well earned ice cream. I had a rum and raisin and mint chocolate mix and it was scrummy.
The Cougar Trail Course may not be the most challenging or picturesque in the world but it'll always have a place in my memory - well for as long as anything remains in my memory these days. I'm convinced that when I go to sleep, I effectively power off and lose most of the memories I've built up during the day. Call it having senior moments. Call it alzheimers.
I call it being more RAM than ROM if you take my drift but in any case, I can't wait to play it again.