Some golf hazards are lethal in Hilton Head
© By Mike Keenan
Ancient seafarers tried to connect the stars into patterns of constellations to help guide their way. Similarly, whenever we travel, we enjoy an opportunity to explore mystery, experience depth. On home turf, we fail to notice the uniqueness of people and place. Travel is a welcome antidote, a prescription for renewal. I never fail to learn something - usually about myself.
For example, it's important to exercise. Hilton Head, South Carolina is shaped like a shoe and ideal for walking. Thus, I venture across the road from our rented condo to the Van Der Meer Tennis Resort, fiercely active this morning with
finely-dressed ladies in sportswear, eager to improve their skills. They respond enthusiastically to the drills, knocking soft-served balls back as best they can, some with hard returns, others floppy with only a few misses.
I head off from this diversion to encounter bikers, walkers, and joggers - with a cheery "good morning," but I need solitude today. On my right is a golf course. I glide to the cart path for some easy walking. This is the Shipyard Golf Club, a public, 27-hole course, beautifully laid out amidst idyllic homes backing on to manicured fairways, creeks and lagoons with peaceful charm.
The nine-hole sections are named Galleon, Brigantine and Clipper, suiting the overall nautical motif. I climb aboard
Brigantine and at a par 3, 380-yard tee area, I encounter Al, who, like me, ignored the sign that reads "golfers only during daylight hours." Unlike me, he dreamily soaks up the sun, lying prone and motionless just off the driving area, a turtle dozing beside him for token companionship. A foursome swiftly arrives in two electric carts. We observe Al, blissfully asleep. A lady golfer pulls out a camera and walks purposefully towards him.
"Don't get too close," her husband warns. "Those things move fast." Al is 12-feet long and would provide an ample number of belts and other accessories from his large amphibious hide, the second huge alligator I have spotted in the past three holes. I thought sand traps were hazardous enough! I walked the remaining fairways on heightened alert, code orange, advising oncoming golfers about the upcoming onerous par 3.
"Where I live in Florida, they take them out that big," drawls one golfer. "There are three more big ones on the back nine." I visualize the James Bond movie scene where our hero, stranded on a tiny island as gators move in for the kill, adroitly lines them up and athletically employs their firm bodies as steppingstones, literally walking across the water. Al doesn't appear as cooperative.
Later, I encounter two bare-footed young ladies, dressed in striking, purple gowns. This is an eclectic walk - tennis, golfers, alligators and two debutantes checking out the foliage. I warn them about Al.
"You mean, just over there, an alligator?" they ask, incredulous.
"About 12-feet long," I answer.
They pick up their gowns and run: finally, an appropriate reaction. Al is blessed with a lot of teeth, a wide flat snout and sunbathes on grassy banks to maintain a steady 89 degree body temperature. Incredibly, his slow digestion requires merely 1 pound of food per week. I reckon I would supply him with a wanton feast for half a year's daily nutrition. His only known antagonist was Steve Irwin, the wacky, too-brave Australian.
Apparently, if motivated, Alphonse is able to outrun humans for 50 yards. Did he notice my cane? The record length is 19 feet, 2 inches. Only bad things happen when golfers play through gators. One reason I gave up golf was my incredible slice. After my drive, invariably playing in and through constant rough, I would never see my foursome again as a unit until we arrived on the green. In Hilton Head with these somnambulant predators, they might never see me again, period.
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.
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