"Do not get into thinking that Grasscutter goes along with all this shopping. Oh no, whilst Mrs Grasscutter is perusing handbags and make-up, I like to find a golf course"
As the football season gets into full swing, I have memories of a great holiday during June, touring around Florida to keep me warm through the coming English winter.
If you are like me, even on holiday, you are keeping an eye out for sportsfields, just to see what Johnny Foreigner Groundsman is up to. Sad, I know.
I must, at this point, commend the guys that look after the Major League Baseball playing surfaces. There seems to be at least three games live at any part of the day on TV in the States, and the grass is always the deepest green with some great cutting and rolling patterns.
After a few days in Naples, Florida, Mrs Grasscutter had run out of shops to check out and suggested we moved on to Miami where a friend had told her the outlet mall, called the Dolphin Centre, was awesome. I took out the map and decided Interstate 75, also known as Alligator Alley, was the route.
Now, do not get into thinking that Grasscutter goes along with all this shopping. Oh no, whilst Mrs Grasscutter is perusing handbags and make-up, I like to find a golf course. As we drove down I-75 and got closer to Miami, I was on the lookout for a course for the next day. I did not spot anything obvious, but logged onto the hotel Wi-Fi with my phone that evening to see what was about.
As in this country, a lot of the courses are private members clubs and, sadly, have the same attitude to non-members playing their course. Understandable, I guess, as they pay a lot of money for the privilege.
As I browsed through the various country clubs' in the Miami area, I came across Grande Oaks Golf Club with the tag line on the website 'Home of Caddyshack'.
For those of you not familiar with Caddyshack, all I can say is it is a feature length film concerning the comical goings on at an exclusive golf club. All the members are wealthy and eccentric, and all the staff are poor and slightly less eccentric. The main character is Danny; he's a caddy who will do almost anything to raise money to go to college. There are many subplots, including the assistant greenkeeper's pursuit of a gopher which is threatening to ruin the lush fairways and greens of the fictional Bushwood Country Club.
The appeal of Caddyshack lies in its magnificent cast of characters, and the way they clash with each other. The club is riddled with the usual petty disputes and social conventions that can be found at any archetypal golf club.
The club's best player, supercool Zen playboy, Ty Webb, played by Chevy Chase, is constantly spouting meaningless psychobabble like "be the ball". Rodney Dangerfield is cast as the ultimate crass loudmouth (and loud dresser), Al Czervik, whose huge golf bag contains a built-in sound system, mini-TV, phone and beer tap and comes out with such great lines as "Hey everybody, we're all gonna get laid!".
These guys are golf course stereotypes, elevated to comic absurdity, but my favourite is, without doubt, Carl Spackler, the deranged assistant greenkeeper played by Bill Murray, who wages an explosive jihad against the gopher, fantasises about lady members and golf glory. In one of the funniest scenes from the film, Spackler takes a small scythe to the dahlias in a flower bed. He slowly walks down the row of flowers, decapitating the flower heads with the scythe as he mutters an imaginary commentary, "Cinderella story, outta nowhere, a former greenkeeper now about to become the Masters champion". Absolute classic, well in my world, anyway.
This film is one of my all time favourites and, when I found out the course where it was filmed was only twenty miles up the road from my hotel, I decided I had to try and get a round there and buy some Caddyshack apparel.
Unfortunately, but understandably, I could not play the course, but bought a tee-shirt and chatted to some of the course workers who told me all the greens are walk mown, planted with Tift Eagle, an ultra-dwarf Bermuda grass, and that the Grande Oaks fairways are planted in Bermuda 419 - which I am sure means something to the greenkeeping fraternity out there.
I did get to play on a few courses over the duration of my stay and was very impressed with the layout and upkeep of all of them.
I also had some very interesting chats with various course workers and one Superintendent, as the Head Greenkeeper is called over there. They have the same gripes and moans as we do over here; mainly long hours, low wages and, believe it or not, the weather! Several times I was told they were having an awful summer. If 30OC everyday and the odd shower or thunderstorm in the afternoon is an awful summer, I hate to think what they would have made of our spring and early summer this year.
A footnote to this piece is that Bill Murray triumphed in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with his professional playing partner, D.A. Points, last February. Not quite the Masters, but certainly a Cinderella story.
Keep the faith; and keep cutting the grass, after all that's all you do.