I was pretty sure the course would be open for the afternoon, but before leaving home I called ahead, just in case. I asked if anybody was out there. Three people, the guy said. All day? All day. I said that I would see him soon.
After a quick express bus ride, I got there just before two o'clock. A few people were teeing off on #1, so I got to start over on the back nine, which was totally deserted. The first swing of the afternoon felt good. A little constricted, but solid. The second felt good, and the third and fourth did too.
I won't lie, it was brutally cold out there. You're-crazy-for-playing-type weather. I had to jog the first couple of holes to get warm. The gusts were enough to stop you in your tracks--bitter, wincing blasts. Near the third green a sudden and rude gust knocked my bag over while I was trying to chip; I let out a primal yell. No one heard it though, I was the only human on that whole back nine.
You don't have to worry about me though, I was fully prepped for the cold. I had all my layering systems operating and was plenty warm. But there were times when even though I felt okay inside my layers, the cold and the wind just made the playing of golf really hard. Well-struck balls got swatted out of the air by gusts, or else shot through greens on tailwinds. I three-putted the fourth hole trying to putt into a stiff headwind that blinded my eyes with tears.
My swing felt good though, and balls were being struck solid, and this gave me the spirit to keep grinding. I hit the first green in regulation, then the second, then just missed the third. The slight bit of bulk from winter clothes actually helped me to swing by making it easier to restrict the backswing, which is something I'm always trying to do.
Here's the 18th hole at Dyker Beach, my ninth hole of the day. From this spot, I chipped in for birdie.
Amazing. Somehow the fairways here are still a deep shade of green, and more lush and grassy than I've seen all year. Greens are nice too. The only real downside right now are the billions of leaves covering the ground.
From tee-off, I only had two hours and forty minutes until sunset. But because I didn't wait on a single shot I was able to finish in a ridiculous 2:14. Afterwards I just caught the express bus back home, and made it through the front door just a hair over four hours from when I left it, which has to be a record.
I shot an 84. Looking back I lost several strokes on the greens, but besides the score it was one of my best all-around efforts of the year. No penalties, no lost balls, no winter rules shenanigans. I was so into it, and the game felt unforced, more free flowing than it has in a long time. I did a good job of wrangling the ball around in some difficult conditions--it would've been easy to lose some today. The joy of playing on an empty course, that's still flush with greenery, I can't say enough about it. It's so great that after a little while, the cold doesn't even really matter.
As of now I might be more excited about my next round than I have been all year.