Georgia Golf: Marsh Madness

By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 23, 2004

I so love the marsh.

Hey! Let's play golf in the marsh!

Now, I hate that swamp.

Ah, a haiku of hate. That's golf for you. Some people swear and break their clubs. I seethe in 5-7-5 triplets. It's a dangerous thing to play this game in a beloved setting. Lots of duffers know how even a beautiful spring course -- ablaze with azaleas, awash in dappled sun -- takes on a malevolent air after you slice a few drives into that netherworld where bad balls go forever. After three-putting for a double-bogey, you don't want to stop and smell the roses so much as beat them to a juicy pulp with your good-for-nothing $275 Scotty %&8#@!# Cameron Futura putter. Or at least compose a fuming little verse about them:

Pretty, pretty bloom.

How nice you look by the green.

Distract me, you're mulch.

That's how it was for me at the Hampton Club, a comely Spanish moss-trimmed course on St. Simons Island, Ga. For the most part, Hampton wraps around a handsome resort neighborhood at the tip of the barrier island, bordered on several sides by my all-time favorite terrain, a southern salt marsh. I spent much of my boyhood puttering around these fertile, pungent estuaries that line the Georgia coast from Savannah to Cumberland Island. It's what attracted me to Hampton in the first place -- a chance to knock the ball around in air scented with that heady brume of crab muck and oyster breath.

But a few of Hampton's holes presume to jut out into the marsh itself. Four fairways hopscotch out to a small hammock by way of cute little wooden cartpaths over the spartina grass. It was here that I learned that the sucking power marsh mud has on your flip-flops is actually a force that extends well into the airspace above. I watched three (three!) perfectly sound drives off the 12th tee get suddenly vacuumed from the sky into a mushy no-return. As a trap, a marsh might as well be the deep Atlantic; nothing that drops in is ever coming out.

I never felt the same about the marsh again. Who knew, during all those kayak and boat trips, that these wetlands secretly hated me and were waiting for a chance to ruin my round. Without those kersplatting drives, I would have had a decent shot at breaking 5o on the back nine -- about as close as I ever get to a tour-qualifying mark.

Oh that vicious veld.

How cruel its muddy --

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