Here’s a question I bet you haven’t been asked before: If the trees at your golf course could talk, what would they say?
No doubt I’ve seen too many animated movies with my kids over the last 10 years or so, but the image of one of the older trees at the course stopping me with a long branch and confiding to me it’s inner thoughts and secrets has crept into my imagination before.
Trees see it all. Well, if they could actually see, that is. On the older courses, some of the more elderly wooden fellows have been there for years and years, long before you and I came along. And, in many cases, they will be there years after we leave the course as well.
They’ve seen the extremes of weather, the advancements in turfgrass maintenance, as well as the advancements in the game of golf itself.
They’ve been hit by golf balls, scraped by mowers, dinged by string trimmers and, in some cases, plowed into by a golf cart or two.
But if I did indeed have this conversation with one of the older oaks or maples, I think I’d be most interested in what they’d say about how the golf course, as well as the game of golf itself, has transformed over the years.
So, if you don’t mind, suspend your disbelief for a few moments. Picture the superintendent at one of the older courses, someplace out East – perhaps a course designed by A.W. Tillinghast or Alister MacKenzie – sitting at the base of a huge, old pin oak. Maybe he’s sitting with his back against the old tree, a long blade of ryegrass stuck absently in his mouth, listening intently to the old oak telling his tale.
“When I was just a young sapling,” the oak would start out in a slow, thoughtful drawl, “things were different. Different indeed.”
Here’s a sampling of random thoughts that old tree just might come up with on a few various golf-related topics:
“Back in the day, people weren’t in such a hurry. No golf cars. They took their time. Now everybody’s in such a rush.
“The game was simpler. Well, life was simpler too. And what’s with all this technology with golf clubs and balls? Don’t get me started! Does it really make the game more enjoyable? I never used to be in range of tee shots. Now I get plunked daily.
“And cell phones! Really? Do people actually want to spend their lives staring down at these little lighted screens? How interesting can they be? Isn’t there a human expression about stopping to smell the roses? Or maybe that’s gnomes. I forget.”
“There was a time when I enjoyed watching the crew come out early in the morning, starting before even the birds woke sometimes. They seemed relaxed and happy. Now they zoom past on their mowers and in their carts, in as much of a rush as the golfers.
“I liked the old days. Grass wasn’t cut so short. Those poor greens! They look like they get positively abused now. Mowed short, rolled, knifed, aerified. Glad I wasn’t born a blade of bentgrass, let me tell you. Pulling cores. That’s just cruel.
“As far as me and my kind, I do think today’s workers are more aware of caring for us trees as well. Especially the young bucks, who need a little TLC in their first few years. I must say the folks in charge today seem to know a lot more than they did back in the day.”
On the environment
“And in that same vein, today’s superintendents seem really in tune with protecting the environment. Let me tell you, that was not always the case. Not that past folks were trying to hurt the environment, but they certainly weren’t making the effort to protect it the way that today’s managers are.
“You see it in so many different aspects of what they do, like less and more efficient watering. Buffer zones created around water features. Naturalized and no-mow areas cropping up everywhere … I feel a lot better about the future for all the seedlings yet to be sowed. Their life has a chance to be better than mine, and mine has been grand.”
“One word … barbarians!”