It’s no secret that here in the United States the game of golf is struggling to attract new players as well as to keep existing ones.
To address this problem, some courses are experimenting with creative solutions. A few have begun offering enlarged holes. Others have opened the fairways to Footgolf, a combination of soccer and golf. Still others are promoting a game called FlingGolf, featuring a clever playing tool that is equal parts lacrosse stick and putter.
The large cup strikes me as something of an affront to golf’s traditions. But I’m OK with the cross disciplines. In fact, I once saw Colorado salesman-turned-businessman Jon Groves play a game of Javelin Golf. Perhaps some courses should consider this option as well.
Groves’ moment of inventiveness came several years ago on the 13th hole at the Grand Lake Golf Course in the fabulous Colorado town of the same name. A short course that was tightly lined with lodgepole pine trees at the time, (a mountain pine beetle blight has since put an end to those pines) it always brought out the worst in Groves. Indeed, he usually spent most of a given round at Grand Lake complaining that he wasn’t at the nearby Pole Creek or Grand Elk golf courses. Inevitably, a few rain drops or the slightest hint of a coming storm was enough to get Groves insisting that our round should end before his troubled bets could conclude in losing fashion.
On just such a day Groves was in his usual foul mood when he reached 13, where moose frequently sip from the lake that fronts the fairway. It’s a tight but short par 4, on which a long iron will suffice off the tee. The real trouble, though, comes on the green, which like many on the mountain terrain of Grand Lake, is quite severe.
Groves played his first two shots decently, and sat hole-high to the right of the green as he stood over his third. Attempting to chip some 80 or so feet to a left hole position, he played what looked like a nice shot, but the ball stopped quickly on the spongy green. Next, from 12 feet, Groves thought he had hit a decent putt, only to see his ball dive left below the hole, then slowly begin rolling down a steep slope, one glacial rotation at a time. Some 10 seconds later the ball finally came to a rest near the front of the green, 20 feet from the cup.
That’s when Jon went Olympics on the poor 13th at Grand Lake. From the green’s surface he picked up the flagstick, then bellowed something about how much he hates the course as he javelined that stick a clumsy 15 feet. It landed sharply, tearing out a deep swath of maybe 9 inches from the soft, spongy surface.
To his credit, an embarrassed Groves sought to make quick amends by attempting to fix the ugly scar. But I’ve yet to see a divot tool that is designed to repair the marks that come from an overhand flagstick throw rather than those that come from a crisply struck iron shot.
Many moose have since tramped across that 13th green at Grand Lake, their hooves leaving noticeable imprints. But as far as I know, it’s the imprint of what we’ll now call Jon’s Javelin Golf that has left the deepest scar on that beautiful little piece of the Colorado Rockies.