Split Rock is one of my earliest golf memories in New York City. It was ten years ago that my old college buddy Chris and I mutually decided that the time had come for us to take up golf.
In our inexperience, we somehow determined that the northeastern Bronx was our best bet. We played our very first round at the easier Pelham course, had a good enough time, and then came back a few weeks later to take on the more challenging Split Rock.
I've played a considerable number of rounds here, but looking back at my scores I was surprised to see that I've only been here twice in the last four years. Most recently I was here in spring '12, for a weekend round that was so excruciating that I sought out relief from alcohol.
I guess that round left a mark, and I went ahead and filed Split Rock under "Intolerable slow play zone--DO NOT ENTER" and just kind of shoved the whole God-forsaken place out of mind.
After you pay your green fee at the clubhouse near the Pelham course, it's about a quarter-mile to Split Rock's first tee. A major pain in the ass if you are walking. Not a problem however since walking golf is being phased out around here. To walk 18 at a city course would cost $31. But $35 here at Pelham/Split Rock gets you a green fee plus cart, plus lunch, plus two drinks.
At the first tee, there's nobody waiting to hit. The starter gave me the go-ahead, and so I'm off, by my lonesome. Great start to the day.
Look, it's the titular Split Rock. Actually I don't think it is. The word 'titular' is kind of funny though.
#7 and 8 make up one of the toughest pair of holes in the tri-state area. Two long, narrow par 4's with lots of places to lose balls.
It's looking kind of rough in this corner of the golf course. Some things never change.
#8 is really, really hard, because not only is it long and narrow, it doesn't really allow a driver off the tee--unless it's a perfectly executed hook shot.
I necked a 3-wood and still nearly ran out of fairway.
Management is very emphatic about the wildlife cautions. Funny, because I've been here many times before this, and this is the first I've ever heard of it, which suggests that something bad has happened since my last visit and somebody maybe got their ass sued. Valued guests... fuck you. Don't give us that jive talk.
The tenth hole is the site of my first ghetto golf experience, exactly ten years ago. It was very unfortunate. Innocence was lost that day. And after that it was all downhill, some might say.
After struggling and barely making it out of Split Rock's front nine, Chris and I stopped at the halfway house for a breather and some hot dogs and Gatorade. It was a steamer that day and there was hardly anyone to be seen on the course. After mustering some energy we trudged to #10 and tried to resume the round. Midway through the hole as we're trying to chop our way to the green, a ball sailed clear over our heads.
It was some people on the tenth tee right behind us. In the confrontation that ensued, the guy who'd hit the ball accused us of cutting in front of them out of nowhere. We tried to explain our side of it. We were so naive, and to us the explanation was perfectly, unassailably logical. To my chagrin, the dude didn't believe us.
We played on. After finishing the 18th hole, I guess I was still pretty pissed off about what had happened. We waited for them to reach the green and discussed what we should do next. I volunteered to say something. Chris pledged to back me up in case violence broke out. I remember it so clearly, locking and loading the chamber with the exact words. When they arrived I braced myself and yelled across the green:
FUCK YOU. YOU'RE AN ASSHOLE.
Stunned silence from everyone. My pulse sped up. I don't think I'd ever spoken in such a blunt, confrontational way to a stranger in all my life until that moment. Nobody really knew what to do. The man and woman who were playing with the offender, they looked aghast. It was probably a first for them like it was for me, getting involved in such a hotheaded imbroglio.
I don't remember much of a response, anyways there was no escalation. Chris and I just walked back towards the clubhouse, muttering about the nerve of some people. See, we were as yet clueless about the dog-eat-dog world of muni golf conflict. Looking back on it now, of course I see it all. The dude, who was kind of fat, was probably just overheated, and probably overmatched by the course, like most people who play golf in New York City. And we did take a long time chilling at the halfway house, so it probably did seem like we had cut in out of nowhere. It is annoying when people cut in front of you, justified or not. Whatever, who gives a fuck anymore. Learning experience, etc.
11th hole, one of the rare wide-open opportunities to unleash a big angry driver swing.
Tough chip shot, from rough, up and over a hump, nearly impossible to leave it close to the hole.
15th hole is the start of what I've seen described as "the Amen Corner of New York City." Please, gag me with a spoon.
I used to get brutalized on this course, all the time. I'd grown accustomed to it. But today I returned to the site of many a spiritual de-pantsing as a much better golfer. The course seemed smaller, less penal. Even without much of an "A" game today I still got to the 18th tee needing one last par to break 80, or a bogey to beat my personal course record by a shot.
I settled for the personal best. I felt somewhat vindicated, and no longer afraid of the course. Rather enjoyed it actually. Because it's a solid layout, and unlike most city courses, doesn't really have more than a couple of WTF holes, and it does manage to separate the decent players from the jokers. Maybe I'll come back, make a concerted effort to break 80, and then never come here again. After all it is a bitch getting up here on public transit.