by Jeff Skinner
The snow is gone here in the Northeast and all the courses are eagerly making preparations to open for the season. The driving ranges opened this week and they were packed the two occasions I was able to get there. It’s a rite of spring, well almost spring anyway, as we all take our rusty games back out to the range and try and find that ever elusive perfect swing.
I have to be honest, I am weak. I couldn’t make it through the entire winter without playing some real golf. I caved in and headed down to Myrtle Beach for a few days of relative warmth and some wonderful golf. It was my first trip to Myrtle and I wasn’t disappointed. There’s a reason it’s the number one golf destination in the east. There are over 100 courses within a short drive and enough other diversions to keep everybody happy.
This was only a three nighter, three round trip and instead of flying like we have in the past to Florida, I decided we would save a few bucks and drive. After all, it’s only twelve hours. Heading down there was easy but coming back, at night it seemed a lot longer.
It was during the third week of February and the temperature hovered around 60 and I was able to play in just a golf shirt and even got a bit of sunburn on my chalky, white, winter body. Compared to the twenty degrees it was up in New York it felt like heaven. We played a few nice courses, Aberdeen and Blackmoor and seemed to have those two to ourselves the entire time. The last day we tried to play Myrtle Beach National West Course but only got nine holes in before the only rain of the week and I mean rain, convinced us to head north a bit early.
The golf was great and the company was better as we all had a grand time but the highlight of the trip was playing through the alligator on the fourth hole at Blackmoor. Blackmoor is a very nice Gary Player layout and it has its share of ponds and swamps and much of the course is bordered with houses. The fourth hole is a little par three over a pond with a cart path that goes out and back. So we were teeing off as the group ahead of us was coming back down the cart path. We all hit up and started to drive up to the green that goes right along the pond. As I’m speeding past the pond I notice something out of the corner of my eye near the edge of the pond. I do a double take and sure enough there’s an alligator, a big alligator, laying there in the grass that edges the pond.
Forgive me, but this is my first encounter with a gator, other than watching those crazy swamp guys on television. It looked dead; it wasn’t moving at all, just lying there. It almost looked like a big stuffed gator put there as a gag. Until I got out of the cart to take a picture and I saw it open its eyes. Okay, that’s was enough to scare the hell out of us. “Hey Al, mind if we play through?” A ranger later told me “Oh yea, that’s our ten footer.”
They are some ugly animals but this one looked liked it had a smile on its face. Maybe it was thinking we were lunch or something but we played out in a nervous rush and had to drive right by the gator to get to the next hole. Rest assured we were a bit more careful on our return trip.
For us northern boys the “close encounter of the gator kind” was indeed one of the memorable moments of our quick trip to Myrtle. The golf was great and the weather was better than we could have asked for considering it was still February. We’ll definitely head back but with a better appreciation for those nasty looking gators.